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'Ask the Superintendent' forum provides a chance to learn about Marshall Public SchoolsPosted Tuesday, September 18, 2012, at 12:46 PM
Public officials often say they like to hear from constituents.
Citizens often say they want public officials to hear their concerns.
Getting the two together isn't always easy or automatic.
The Marshall Democrat-News and new Marshall Public Schools Superintendent Ryan Huff are planning to try something that hasn't, as far as we know, been done before in Marshall -- an online public forum to bring a public official and constituents together.
Mr. Huff suggested the possibility several weeks ago. In an email message, he said, "I was interested in doing an online forum where I can answer questions on-line from the community."
School superintendents often hear from a few district patrons, but the online session has the potential to reach people who typically do not call or write district officials with their questions and concerns.
The MDN website does not have a built-in chat forum, so we plan to try a kind of hybrid approach, combining the site's comment feature, which is familiar to many people in the community, along with an imported chat widget that will allow Mr. Huff to reply to questions in real time.
Readers can pose questions by posting a comment. Mr. Huff will reply in the chat widget window on the same page. We'll see how it works, and we'll be glad to get feedback from those who participate.
We invite readers to login to the site (or register, if necessary) from 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 20. At 7 p.m., Mr. Huff will respond to questions. We expect the session to last about 45 minutes.
The session will be a great opportunity for people to learn more about the district.
As always, we ask everyone to be cordial and respectful, to Mr. Huff and to each other. Comments that in our judgment are inappropriate may be deleted.
On a personal note, I'm excited about this because I've long been an advocate of real time online conversation. Back in the early 1990s, when Internet tools were still new -- and very primitive by today's standards -- I was part of a group of young college composition teachers and scholars who explored the use of Internet Relay Chat and MOOs (multiple-user dungeon, object oriented) for teaching and scholarship purposes.
We had a lot of fun exploring the new world of real time online conversation. Twenty years later, the tools available are slick, fast and convenient. Talking online is so routine it hardly warrants special mention.
But since we haven't done something quite like this at the paper before, it'll be kind of like old times, trying something new just to see how it works.
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Eric Crump is a former editor of The Marshall Democrat-News. He lives elsewhere now but still loves Marshall and Saline County. He's trying to catch up on all the stories he should have written while he was on staff.
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