Members of the public may have two, rather than one, opportunities to participate in school board action meetings.
The Lee County School Board was told on Tuesday of a new policy that would potentially split public comments into two different sections, one at an action meeting and one after the adjournment.
There were comments on both sides of the fence from board members.
“I think that’s the problem” Board member Betsy Vaughn said. âIf I were to take that, I would say when we’re done, and before board members’ comments, we should have the opportunity for individuals to speak and we can play with numbers. I think 20 people considering the length of some of our meetings is probably a good number. Why would we do it after we adjourn? When the meeting is over, the lights go out and we are no longer a formal board meeting. “
According to policy 1.111, a person who wishes to address the school board about a specific agenda item at a regular or special meeting can do so by completing the public comment card before the start of the meeting. the meeting. “After the adjournment of a regular action meeting, individuals will have the opportunity to address the school board on any other matter relevant to the operation of the school district which is not already discussed, which is not on the agenda nor discussed previously in the previous part of the public comments. Of the reunion.”
The policy states that a maximum of 20 people will be allowed to address the school board after an action meeting of up to 40 minutes has been adjourned.
School board lawyer Kathy Dupuy-Bruno said in an action meeting that voters will be able to speak specifically on an agenda item during public comments and then at the end, voters will be able to express themselves on all matters relating to the district. Once the council is done its business, individuals can talk about anything else, as long as it relates to district operations.
“It’s a difficult situation because we want to be neutral vis-Ã -vis the point of view and the content” said Dupuy-Bruno. “I want to allow that to happen at the end of our business.”
Board member Melisa Giovannelli said she finds it difficult to support politics because she believes in the rights of the public because technically they are her boss. She asked how they could limit the second public comment to just 20 people.
âOne is an hour at the start and the other portion is limited to 20 people for 40 minutes. I find it difficult to make it fair â, she said.
Comments at the start of the meeting help focus the meeting, said board member Gwyn Gittens.
âI don’t know if I would argue having twice for public comment. I don’t know if we would give the audience our full attention at that point and would we really be listening â, she said.
On the other hand, board member Chris Patricca said she thinks it’s important to recognize that they run the business of a nearly $ 2 billion organization.
“Public comments regarding the decisions just in front of us are very important for us to take into account” she said. âComments beyond that lead to confusion and it is difficult for me to stay focused on the business in front of me that evening. Dividing the agenda items early affects my immediate decision making, at the end is also appropriate. After a while I cannot digest any more information. We are actually increasing the number of public comments allowed to one hour and 40 minutes. “
Board chair Debbie Jordan said she believes split public commentary is better for the board as they can conduct board business while still giving speakers the opportunity to talk about how they feel or to share other information that they wish to share. to bring.
After a long discussion and time constraints, the board decided to send individual suggestions on how to improve the policy to Dupuy-Bruno, as other parts of the policy were troubling.
“We can do a pre-briefing once more”, said Dupuy-Bruno.