Several USD 231 patrons were discouraged from making comments at the June 6 board of education meeting.
Citing personnel issues and the district’s policy regarding public comment, residents were not allowed to comment during the meeting.
Under current district policy, patrons must complete a card prior to the meeting providing name and indicating the topic they wish to discuss.
“The board of education welcomes all patrons to attend USD 231 board meetings to learn about their district and its operations as well as share concerns or ask questions,” said Rob Shippy, USD 231 board president. “However, procedures and processes must be in place and followed to adhere to the formality of the meeting and to remain compliant with board policy and state statutes.”
Kansas statute does not require patrons submit information prior to meetings, and other area governing bodies, including the county commission and Gardner city council, do not require prior notice, and those meetings are videotaped.
However, under the USD 231’s Open Forum policy, if a person wants to comment, a card must be completed and presented to the board clerk prior to the meeting, so the speaker and topic can be identified.
The policy is not intended to deter participation from patrons or community members, but rather to encourage patrons to attend and participate in formal board meetings, Shippy said. However, there have been no cards submitted during the last 12 months.
“There were no formal requests to speak to the board in past 12 meetings,” said Leeann Northway, communications manager. “The most recent was June 8, 2015.”
The information is needed to aid the board to better understand the purpose for the request and identifies the individual as a district patron or visitor, officials say. Once the card is complete and submitted, the board clerk gives it to the president, and the person is called to the podium by name.
The purpose is to allow board members and audience to know who is addressing the board, as well as provide documentation of request and contact information for district records for any follow up discussion if necessary, Shippy said.
Patrons must also state their name, address, their children’s school affiliation and, if speaking for a group, the name of the group must be identified.
Patrons who decline to submit a card may be denied the right to speak. However, for those unable to complete the card, assistance is available.
Under state statute, taxpayers’ business must be conducted in public but may adjourn into closed (executive) session for specified topics including: personnel, discussion of students, unless a public hearing is requested and security.