By David F. Rooney
School District 19 is becoming more open and transparent by adopting a policy that permits members of the public to ask questions or make relevant comments about agenda items at the conclusion of its meetings.
Until this year it had neither encouraged nor permitted public comment. But complaints by June Sedona Wiley this spring and by angry members of the Revelstoke Teachers Association at its July 9 meeting forced the board to re-examine its procedures.
“We do need to allow people an opportunity to ask questions at the conclusion of each meeting,” SD 19 Chairman Alan Chell said as trustees discussed an amendment to the board’s Procedural Manual that now gives members of the public a 15-to-20 minute Public Question Period. However, that doesn’t give them free rein over the nature of their questions.
“Comments and questions may deal only with items that are on the agenda of that meeting,” the amendment says.
It will be interesting to see how this amendment affects public attendance at board meetings. Traditionally, very, very few members of the general public have attended board meetings in the past. Journalists like the Times Review’s Alex Cooper and me have, when we wanted comment about specific issues, always buttonholed Chell and other trustees at the end of board meetings. A formal Question period may change that practice.
People who have opinions they’d like to register with the board during the Question period should note that their verbal comments will not form part of the minutes of a meeting. Only written comments that are properly presented to the board will be included in the minutes since there is no one who transcribes its deliberations verbatim, Chell said.
Members of the pubic who wish to make a formal presentation to the board can be placed on the agenda by notifying the Secretary-Treasurer Bruce Tisdale in writing at least one week prior to the meeting they’d like to address. They “should file a written brief… by noon on the Wednesday prior to the… meeting.” If they are part of a delegation it must appoint a spokesperson who will be permitted 10 minutes to present the main issue to the board.
“Trustees may ask questions of the delegation for purposes of clarification or gathering more information,” the Procedural Manual says. “The board will consider the delegation’s request and will communicate its decision as soon as possible.”
The board reserves the right to ask spectators to leave if they are disruptive.
You can watch the proceedings of the board’s September 17 meeting here: