Friday, April 19, 2019

Public Participation

I might be wrong, but it seems that there is a new link on the Richland 2 website under the School Board section (under EXPLORE). Perhaps I just hadn't noticed it. Click on "Public Presentation". You'll see the "encouragement" from the school board to stay informed.

Scroll down and look at the "Request to Speak" Form that must be completed, if you wish to speak at a Regular meeting.

Read carefully the wording on the Form. Then read Board Policy BEDH. Then re-read the Form.

The Policy is broad. Basically, all it says is, "In order that the board may conduct the meeting in a civil and professional manner, comments from the public should not include gossip, defamatory words, or abusive and vulgar language."

Now, look closely at the "Request to Speak" Form and compare it to the Policy. Did the Board formally adopt the more-restrictive language in the Form? When did that happen? Why didn't the Board change the Policy?

The Guidelines on the Form are much more restrictive than the Policy. The first makes sense, that comments be on any subject "within Board authority", as one Board member emphasized in the recent meeting. What happens when a member of the public asks the Board to address an issue, but the Board ducks under their desks? For example, the School Board could take action against the two people who are no legally on the Board. In fact, they should take action. Some would say they must take action.

S.C. Code of Laws Section 59-19-60 allows for the removal of a School Board Trustee from office. A person can be removed "for cause". It wouldn't even take a super-majority. Four board members could get the job done.

Unfortunately, one against whom the Board would take action is the Chair of the Board who, with the Superintendent (an employee of the District) selects what goes on the Agenda - and what does not. Any board member can suggest an Agenda item, but that doesn't necessarily mean it gets on the Agenda.

The Board (meaning the Chair?) could refer questions from the audience to staff for research and recommendations, but that seems never to happen. Has there ever been a Motion on the Agenda to refer a question for research, recommendation and answer to a member of the public?

While the Policy directs "no inappropriate language", it does not state anything about "personal abuse". One person on the Board made a specific point about that at a previous meeting, but I do not know of any comment ever made at any Board meeting that I have attended that could be considered "personal abuse".

Now, if a person had a guilty conscience about something, then that person might feel that "personal abuse" occurred. Feelings and facts are two different things. I think it was someone in Washington, D.C. who said,  "You are entitled to your own feelings, but you are not entitled to your own facts."

The sentence in the Guidelines about threatened or pending litigation is superfluous, since the Board does not respond to any comments during the meeting.

And then there is that little grammatical error: "Speakers that [sic] discuss matters ..."  It's "speakers who...

Policy BEDH and the Guidelines certainly don't say anything about the Chair's gaveling a speaker into submission.

This week - Special Board Meeting, 4/23/19

Richland School District Two has announced a Special Board Meeting for this coming Tuesday, April 23, 2019 at 5:30PM.

You can find the Agenda through the Richland 2 website. Click on EXPLORE (top right) and then on School Board. The only items on the Agenda are Budget Update and Policy Proposals Section K and L. Both are listed under New Business - No Action Requested.

What could be so important to call a Special Board Meeting?

No Public Participation segment is scheduled at this Special Board Meeting.

I have a request in to learn 1) Whether the Board Packet containing the detail of the "fine print" in the Agendas is available to the public before meetings; 2) Where the Consent Agenda detail can be viewed before the Board meetings; and 3) Where Minutes of Board Meetings can be viewed.

The Regular Meeting for the second half of April will be April 30, 2019.