Darien welcomes a new schools superintendent this July. Dr. Alan Addley comes to Darien from Granby — where he spent 11 years as the district’s leader and earned many state accolades.

Darien has had ups and downs in terms over the five to six years — interim and short-term leaders and changes on the Board of Education. One of the problems that has challenged Darien’s school district and the board in the past was a lack of transparency. Public records are public records. The Freedom of Information Act requires the public to be able to access them, but public officials should know that these records are public information.

Unless you have had a really boring spring or are a town government junkie, odds are you haven’t been following the discussion about a request of a financial data by a Board of Finance member to the Board of Education.

On May 9, Board of Finance member Jim Palen requested “the budgeted amount, transferred amount, adjusted budgeted amount and actuals (among other things) for each account” for fiscal years 2017, 2018, and 2019. In his initial request via email to Board of Ed Chairwoman Tara Ochman, obtained by The Darien Times, a response from town’s Finance Director Jennifer Charneski, who provided the same info from the town side, offered to provide the data to Palen in other formats because “this is a quick report to run (really, it took about 5 minutes.)”

Mr. Palen got the data he was requesting on June 5. What happened in between was a lot. Instead of trying to outline it, we can use the words of Board of Finance Chairman Jon Zagrodzy, following the Board of Ed’s final discussion at its June 25 meeting. His comments were in response to Ms. Ochman saying she hoped the situation hadn’t damaged the relationship between the two boards.

“So in terms of your point, Tara, about the level of animosity, it’s kind of surprising about that. We sent in a data request. That was kind of it. And this all blew up from there, into all these proceedings, not at our request. It got a lot more serious because the Board of Education wanted to explore this further. My own view is that this has damaged the relationship between the Board of Education and the Board of Finance. I look forward to working with you all to try and repair that,” Mr. Zagrodzky said.

It is critical that town officials and boards work together. It is critical that all town boards operate in as transparent a way as possible. It is especially incumbent upon Darien’s Board of Education, given its past, to bend over backwards to make its public records public.

If it is this hard for an elected member of the Board of Finance, whose stated purpose is to be a steward of the town’s finances, to obtain public financial information from the Board of Education — how hard might it be for the average Darien resident?

With the new superintendent taking over the district’s leadership, it is the hope that it is a new era of town boards working together. That can only happen if all priorities are where they belong — not focused on power and politics, but on the town, its residents, and its children.