School board members clashed over the call-ahead public participation policy at a recent South-Western City Schools meeting.
The phone first policy was adopted just over a year ago. New board member Karen Dover brought up the idea of having the district’s policy committee review the rule.
"The perception of the general public is that the policy is restrictive," said Dover. "I believe there is middle ground."
The policy states if a person wishes to address the board of education, regarding a non-agenda item, they must call the superintendent’s office by 4 p.m. the Thursday prior to the public meeting. Those signed up would be allotted five minutes to speak at the end of the board meeting.
If a citizen wants to address the board regarding an item on the agenda, they can sign up before the meeting.
Dover said she understands why the policy was adopted, but said the board could find middle ground.
New board member Jo Ellen Myers said the call ahead policy limits free speech.
"The money is coming out of the taxpayer’s pocket. They want a voice," Myers remarked.
Two board members, Cathy Johnson and Mindy Garverick, believe there is no need to review the policy.
Johnson said she does not know of one person who has not gotten the opportunity to speak to the board.
"There is more public participation now," she said.
Johnson explained when a person calls in to speak, it gives the district administration a chance to review the issue. Many times, the issue can be resolved before the board would hear the concern. She noted it gives the public a chance to have a conversation with the superintendent and if that person still wants to address the board after the issue is resolved, they are free to do so.
Garverick said she believes the policy is generous and sees no need for alterations.
Randy Reisling, board president, was the sole vote against the measure in December 2008. He admitted he was concerned with limiting access to the board.
While Reisling does not feel it warrants a review by the policy committee, he asked the administration to look into the issue.
"Has this policy limited voices?" he asked.
Reisling also said he would like to hear what other school districts have enacted.
Superintendent Bill Wise said the call ahead policy has not "gone over well" with the public. He said the administration would review the issue to find out "if it really brings barriers."
He also said he does not see a need to have the policy committee review the issue unless the board finds it ineffective. Once the administration researches the policy, it will present findings to the board.