Oct. 28, 2011
By Linda Travers
Today I’ll talk about fairness and efficiency of public input.
SD61’s Bylaw 9360 General Meeting of the Board states that the meetings will be conducted in two major sections. The first being the agenda, minutes and acceptance of presentations from the public and employee groups. The second section will be for the consideration of Board Committee Reports and Special Reports to the Board.
The public presentations will be limited to 5 minutes for each individual with a limit of 3 speakers per issue. Also that there will be no public debate with presenters as only information will be received. As well, the total public time will be limited to 30 minutes.
There are problems with this Bylaw.
First, speakers wanting to make public presentations must contact the Board Secretary with their topic title on the Wednesday before the Monday meeting. This timing is also a problem as the agenda for the meeting is not posted until the Friday following the Wednesday. A speaker is at the mercy of the Board Chair as to whether or not he will allow someone to speak to an issue on the agenda if they haven’t met the Wednesday deadline.
Second, is the monitoring of the public presentations. The Bylaw says the total public time is 30 minutes. One would assume that with only 3 public speakers, then each speaker would be entitled to 10 minutes. However, all speakers are told to wrap up their presentation as their 5 minutes is up.
Third, public input comes at the beginning of the Agenda. That means that the public has no opportunity to comment on any reports being given. It is interesting to see on Agendas from other school districts, that after the Superintendent has given a report there is a 15 minute public question/comments time. And also after Action items such as a Capital Project Bylaw, impacts of government rulings etc. there is a second public question/comment period.
Fourth, public presentation time is also used for employee groups’ presentations. All of the employee groups sit at the Board table. I would assume that privilege means they are entitled to speak at any time.
The current trustees have practiced this culture of impeding public participation for many years. Vote for new trustees who will encourage authentic democracy and full accountability to the common good.