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School Board ponders rules for comment

STORY BY GEORGE ANDREASSI (Week of October 14, 2021)

Concerned about the political tone and sheer number of public speakers at its business meetings, the School Board is considering new rules to focus comment on topics coming up on that evening’s agenda.

The School Board has been contemplating whether to move public comment on non-agenda items to the end of meetings, so the board can first work through its agenda items.

It took until about 9 p.m. during the Sept. 14 School Board meeting, more than two hours, to get through the 42 public speakers addressing the board.

Lengthy public speaking sessions have been common this year as dozens of parents have packed School Board meetings to speak out about the school district’s mandatory facemask policy and controversial Critical Race Theory lessons in classrooms.

“It seems to me for the last – I don’t know how long – all we talk about is masks, Critical Race Theory and whether equity is a proper term to have in a job description,” said School Board Chairman Brian Barefoot. “This mask thing is behind us. There is nothing more to say.”

Barefoot called for a renewed focus on improving the academic achievement of students, as opposed to hot-button national issues.

“I’m not saying citizen input is not important,” said School Board member Peggy Jones. “But I do not think it should take up the time, two to three hours before a School Board meeting. I just want to make sure we get the business of the board finished.”

The School Board has also been weighing whether to stop videotaping the public comments on non-agenda items to deter political grandstanding.

The School Board was slated to discuss the proposed rule changes at its discussion session this past Tuesday.

Some frequent speakers at meetings said the new rules smack of censorship and bad government.
Nicole Campanelli, a parent who often comments at School Board meetings, asked, “Why is everything being censored? Why can’t the public know what issues concerned citizens are addressing? Why hide this?”