Board reviews public participation policy
The administration at South-Western City Schools is reviewing the effectiveness of the call ahead public participation policy.
At a recent board meeting, Superintendent Dr. Bill Wise said they should have a presentation ready for the board at its Feb. 22 work session.
The phone first public participation policy was adopted by the board of education in December 2008. Board member Karen Dover, elected in November 2009, asked for a review. Dover said she understands why the policy was put in place, but said the majority of community members disapprove.
“The perception of the general public is that the policy is restrictive,” Dover previously noted.
Under the policy, if a person wants to address the board, regarding a non-agenda item, they must call the superintendent’s office by 4 p.m. the Thursday prior to the public meeting. Those who call in can speak publicly for five minutes at the end of the board meeting.
Those who want to address an item on the agenda can sign up to speak just before the meeting.
Jo Ellen Myers, also a new board member, questioned the policy and said she believes it limits a person’s freedom of speech.
Other board members felt the policy was working just fine and did not need a review.
Board member Cathy Johnson said there has not been one person who wanted to address the board that did not get the opportunity. She said the policy is unique because it allows the citizen to call and speak to the superintendent about what issue they may have. This gives the administration time to solve the issue before it comes to the public meeting.
Johnson also noted there is more public participation now than there has ever been.
Board President Randy Reisling asked the superintendent to review the issue, though he does not believe the policy review committee needs to get involved. Reisling wants to find out if this policy has really “limited voices.”
Resident Terry Jones addressed the board and asked members to review the policy. He said the public views it as negative and called it a “barrier of mistrust.”
Jones, who is head of anti-levy group SWAT, said if the board were to review the call ahead policy, it would be a small step in the right direction to gain community trust.
The meeting, where the administration will present its findings, will be at the District Service Center, 3805 Marlane Dr, in Grove City. It begins at 7 p.m.
At the meeting, Myers questioned an attendance policy regarding suspension.
Under the policy, middle school students who are suspended, have the opportunity to make up class work missed during the out-of-school suspension. High school students do not get that same courtesy. If they are suspended, they do not get to make up class work.
Myers said the policy should be consistent and middle school kids should not get the chance to make up work.
“Where is the punishment for the crime?” she asked.
Reisling said he believes the policy is in place because it is age appropriate and students in high school should be more mature and aware of consequences.
Deputy Superintendent Phil Warner said it is a philosophical issue put in place by the policy committee. He explained if there were to be a change it would have to go back to the policy committee for review.
“The policy just lacks consistency,” Myers commented.
The attendance policy was voted on to change the language for legislation.