Fayette Board of Education to give more time for public comments
The Fayette County Board of Education at its annual retreat March 23 agreed to increase the amount of time the public gets to have its say during regular board meetings.
Instead of two minutes each, now citizens addressing the board may take up to five minutes to make their point.
The board reviewed and approved a number of operating procedures pertaining to board members. The retreat covered topics such as communication between board members, visits to campuses by board members, communication with the community and the response of board members to public participation in meetings. Many of the topics included minor adjustments to the list of ongoing board operating procedures.
The topic of the response of board members to public participation during meetings brought one change in terms of procedure. That change limits speakers during the public comments portion of the meeting to five minutes each rather than the two-minute limit currently in place.
The board agreed that two minutes often does not afford sufficient time for speakers to make their point. The change to five minutes per speaker will come with a reminder by the board chairman after four minutes that the permitted time is nearing its end.
The five-minute allotment may be altered to a shorter time frame during public hearings when large numbers of people might want to make a public comment.
Another aspect of the topic that did not change is one where board members listen but to do not take any action on public comments as they are made at meetings.
The operating procedures as agreed upon will be presented at the board’s April meeting.
There was essentially no change in the area of communication between board members. As it stands, school board members may communicate with other individual board members or to the superintendent for the purpose of clarifying questions, providing clarifying information or socializing under circumstances that do not conflict with or circumvent the Georgia Open Meetings law. The law states that a quorum of elected officials from a particular body being present at the same time and place constitutes a public meeting.
The communication topic also noted that board members will direct their individual requests for information through the superintendent or his or her designated liaison.
Pertaining to visits to school campuses by board members, the group agreed that, as a courtesy to the school administration, a board member will make an appointment with the administrator in advance of visiting the campus. Board members will check in at the principal’s office and will be accompanied by a designated staff member during the visit.
The board in agreeing to the procedure struck the provision that they should make every effort to notify the school at least one day in advance of the visit.
In the area of communication with the community, board members are encouraged to participate in community activities as liaisons between the public and the school district. A part of the communication involves relaying information about the district goal process in a positive manner and referring questions about specific activities to the appropriate staff person or spokesperson when they do not know the answer. Board members will encourage community input but will not respond to or act on the basis of anonymous calls or letters. And finally, board members retain the right to speak to anyone as an individual and, in doing so, should clarify that he or she is not speaking for the board and should remind the individual of the action or position of the board related to the issue in question.