Thursday, July 9, 2020

BEDH Reinstated - sort of

At today's special-called board meeting, the board voted 7-0 to reinstate Board Policy BEDH - Public Participation at Meetings. Sort of...

Some kind of backroom deal must have been made, because Mrs. Libby Roof, the District's Chief Communications Officer, was ready with an explanation about how public participation would be conducted.

The public will NOT be able to speak during the board meeting.

What the public will be able to do is submit comments to the District during a few days before the meeting and up until about mid-afternoon of the day of the meeting. Then the submitted comments will be read to the board during the meeting.

The next board meeting is July 21. On about July 17 a notice form will be posted on the District's website, and a member of the public will submit his comment electronically on that form.

Let's say that a parent wants to really unload on the board about something it has or has not done. So he or she submits a strongly-worded comment (polite, no profanity; but strongly worded). Then a staffer will be expected to read that comment. Will it be read with the same emotion and forceful tone as that with which it was written?

Because Mrs. Roof was ready with her explanation, when a board member asked how public participation would be handled, that caused me to think that the board already knew about the that policy. And yet no one spoke up on behalf of the public to ask how a member of the public could address the board orally.

I guess we'll find out how well it works and if the board really "gets" what the member of the public was saying to them.

Slippery agenda for 7/9/2020

On the agenda for today's school board meeting, there is a line that appears when you click on the link for Item 6.1.

Item 6.1 will be the discussion and vote on whether to reinstate Board Policy BEDH - Public Participation at Meetings.

This is the slippery line:

"Per the recommendation of the S.C. School Board Association in light of the global health emergency, the board voted May 12, 2020, to suspend policy BEDH, Public Participation at Meetings for all meetings indefinitely."

It's partially true. The Board did vote to suspend BEDH, but there was no "indefinitely" about it.

Although Amelia McKie said emphatically on May 12th that the suspension was temporary, it was not. She just was not telling the truth.

The motion that night was to suspend Board Policy BEDH. Period.
Not "temporarily."
Not "indefinitely".
Not "until the COVID-19 pandemic is over."
Not "until the the state of emergency is over."

The Board suspended it. Period.

Today the Board may correct that error. We'll see.

Restore Public Participation (BEDH) Tonight

The following email has been sent to the Richland 2 School Board.

I surely hope that the Board will vote to reinstate Board Policy BEDH this evening. Tonight is the night to demonstrate your respect for the public in Richland 2 School District.

When Board Policy BEDH is restored, will you please make a motion to add Public Participation to the next and future agendas? Otherwise, the Policy will be reinstated but there will be no agenda item for the public to speak.

Please also seriously consider scheduling in-person Board meetings, with appropriate social-distancing seating. It is important for the public to see you and for you to see the public.

If the Board continues to meet by Zoom, it is a very easy step to allow members of the public to address the Board via Zoom. Those wishing to speak can indicate their interest by 2:00PM on the day of the meeting. They should attend the Zoom meeting.

When Public Participation is opened, the Chair should state how Public Participation will be conducted. He should briefly review the guidelines, then introduce the first speaker and say, "Followed by (name) and (name). The Zoom moderator unmutes the first speaker. At the conclusion of the first speaker's remarks, the Chair thanks that speaker and introduces the next speaker, "followed by (name) and (name)".In fact, this method would work well for in-person Public Participation at Meetings. The delay between speakers would be eliminated.

At the June 20, 2020 virtual meeting of the Alexandria, Va. City Council, there were 38 speakers registered to speak. Watch how Mayor Wilson efficiently runs the public participation portion of the meeting:

Gus Philpott