Sunday, June 21, 2020

Public Participation at online board meetings?

The Richland 2 School District decided to throw out public participation at board meetings, blindly swallowing the suggestion of the South Carolina School Boards Association.

Rather than considering what was good for Richland 2 and its constituents, the board took the easy, and wrong, path. It just suspended Board Policy BEDH. Not temporarily, as it did in March. It suspended it. Period. As in completely. Permanently? Only time will tell.

And then the District didn't even bother to notate on the Board Policy that it had been suspended or to remove the 3-page Public Participation Guidelines still found on the page that leads to the agenda for its semi-monthly meetings.

What could the Board have done?

It could have adopted an organized online public participation segment, allowing speakers to address the board for up to three minutes via Zoom or telephone.

The City of Arlington, Virginia held a long public participation session yesterday during a Saturday City Council meeting. Speakers had three minutes to voice their opinions. Speakers were well-organized and tight with the prepared comments.

Mayor Wilson did a great job controlling the public participation segment. He announced the name of the next speaker and the names of the next three speakers, so they could be ready. Most speakers confirmed that their voices could be heard. The moderator kept all muted except the announced speaker. There were no delay and no fluff between speakers.

It got out of control at one point in the afternoon, when a Councilwoman asked questions of one speaker. That speaker, a member of the House of Delegates, then monopolized the platform with his point of view and without regard to the three-minute limit. Then he was asked successive questions. The Mayor erred when he allowed the continued Q&A by the Councilwoman and that participant.

The Richland 2 School Board could allow public participation. If enough voters and parents ask for public participation to be restored, the Board will do it. Sending emails into the black hole of District Administration won't work, because there is no pressure of big public numbers.

Has anyone received replies to emails sent to the Board?