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Friday, February 10, 2012

School Board Testimony

As was previously reported elsewhere,  at the Executive Committee meeting this week, President DeBell brought up the issue length of time for speakers during public testimony at School Board meetings.  He said it should go from 3 to 2 minutes.  

His reasoning is that the Board meetings are running too long and the Board members are not as productive as the evening gets later.  He also pointed out that there had been a reduction in the number of people speaking.  He stated that both the City Council and the King County Council have a 2-minute time period. 

Director Smith-Blum agreed and offered that the public testimony could come at the end of the meeting.  She said it was a business meeting after all.  She also stated that maybe if there were multiple speakers on a subject that they could cut it back to one or two.

Sharon asked about a flexible slot with encouragement to try to keep to 2 minutes but no longer than 3.  This was not met with much enthusiasm. 

Erin Bennett stated that people can also send testimony in writing, either in an e-mail or hard copy.  

So naturally, this isn't what I would want and here's why:
  • The speaker period is finite.  It never drags on longer as everyone only gets the time allotted.  Where things DO drag on is when staff give presentations.  Now luckily, some staff have heard the Board when they have politely said, "do not come and do a 30-minute presentation".  Others, not so much.  It would have been nice if someone had mentioned this issue instead of saying it's all the fault of public testimony.  
  • They could get rid of the performances by school groups that are usually around 5:45 pm, go long and the meeting then doesn't start on-time.  While I enjoy them, I also think the directors get to see performances when they go to school events. 
  • I don't agree with "grouping" public testimony on subject and limiting it.  If people take the trouble to sign up and come down, I don't care how many of them speak on the same subject.  That's how the process works.  That's why it's PUBLIC testimony.
  • Yes, people can sent in thoughts in other ways but there is a value to speaking publicly and being on record.  Sometimes I'm not speaking to the Board at all but speaking to the public.   Also, some Board members don't always read what is sent to them via e-mail (Director Patu has been honest in this regard).
  • If it's 2 minutes, then you are definitely limited to one subject.  There is no way to address more than one topic on the agenda that night. 
But they are implementing this come March.  So practice that speech because it's going to get a lot shorter.  I predict this isn't really going to change much at the meetings but maybe the Board has to find this out for themselves.

Lastly, I will write another thread on TFA but in one recent batch of e-mails, there was an e-mail from a principal to her teaching staff telling them to let her know if they wanted to testify for a TFA teacher and she could get them slots on the speakers list.  This was an e-mail to multiple people so she clearly believed she could just call and get slots for all of them.  (And indeed she and a couple of other people DID testify at the meeting in question.) 

I let the Board and the Superintendent know about this issue (because yes, after all, personnel matters are the duty of the superintendent).

No ONE has the right to expect any slots on the speakers list to be held.  Nor should the members of the Board or the Superintendent expect they can hold slots as well.  

This is public testimony with a prescribed method of sign-up and length of time to speak.  It cannot be tainted by attempts of anyone to pack the list of speakers. 

7 comments:

mirmac1 said...

Oh! But you can expect spots to be held if it is in support of central admin's initiatives...

Juana said...

"Director Smith-Blum agreed and offered that the public testimony could come at the end of the meeting. "

I disagree with putting public testimony at the end of the meeting. The public could be commenting on items that will be voted on at the meeting. It doesn't make sense to hear the public's opinions after it is voted on. Also, since it's common practice to have the first speaker as a student, is it realistic and correct to have the student stay up until 10 on a school night?

Anonymous said...

And if there are fewer speakers, why shorten the time? That's not logical.

They are public servants. The public should be respected and heard. I think they forget that sometimes.

n...

Guichon said...

"No ONE has the right to expect any slots on the speakers list to be held. Nor should the members of the Board or the Superintendent expect they can hold slots as well.

This is public testimony with a prescribed method of sign-up and length of time to speak. It cannot be tainted by attempts of anyone to pack the list of speakers."

Sure they can expect it...they are a political body overseeing a political process.

Anonymous said...

Minimal dog & pony show compliance is what they want, versus substance or true community engagement.

Listening? Such a bother. WSDWG

KG said...

The DeBell's of the worls cannot stand public engagement and the fact he and other school board members need to manage the district better.

HE CANNOT HANDLE THE TRUTH.

Juana said...

Under section VII. of the document regarding this item, it stated:

"Further, at several recent Board meetings there have not been 20 public speakers interested in testifying, potentially as a result of new advisory committees providing additional opportunities for the community to give feedback on the work of the district."

So if there are fewer than 20 signed up to speak, doesn't that shorten the meeting?? Am I missing something?