The phone first public participation policy at South-Western City Schools will go back to the policy committee for review.
At the Feb. 22 school board meeting, Deputy Superintendent Phil Warner presented a statistics report on the policy.
The policy was adopted in December 2008. It states a person who wants to address the board, regarding a non-agenda item, must call the superintendent’s office by 4 p.m. the Thursday prior to the public meeting. Residents speaking on an agenda item can sign up to speak just before the meeting.
Warner said since the call ahead policy was enacted, 103 residents have signed up to address the board, seven canceled. There were 96 appearances by 63 individuals. Warner said 78 of the requests were levy related.
The deputy superintendent reported, in the last year, there were two times where separate individuals complained on missing the sign up deadline.
Warner also reviewed policies from 15 other school districts, including Columbus City Schools, Groveport, Reynoldsburg, Pickerington and Worthington. He said six of the 15 have two public participation pieces; one for agenda items and one for non-agenda items.
“They all require some type of sign-up piece,” said Warner.
He found five of the districts required people sign up days in advance of the meeting when addressing a non-agenda item.
“One had a requirement of five working days, one had a policy of seven days and one required people to sign up the Monday prior to the meeting,” Warner reported.
He also said he found one other district that requires residents to call the superintendent’s office before addressing the board.
Warner said now that the board has the information, “The ball’s in your court.”
Mindy Garverick, board member, said she does not see the need for further review. She believes the policy works well and questions the process of changing policies.
“We start walking a delicate line,” said Garverick. “How far are we going to take this?”
Garverick said there are many other issues that require the board’s attention. She said the people who want to speak, get the chance.
Board President Randy Reisling said there has been no public outcry on the topic. Reisling was the sole vote against the policy in December of 2008.
Now he says, “I haven’t seen the results I was concerned with.”
Reisling said he does not think the policy has blocked anyone from speaking.
“I think it has worked.”
Board member Karen Dover said she has talked to many people who do not agree with the policy. She said she would like to see the sign-up date in the policy change.
“Thursday is pretty far in advance,” Dover said.
Jo Ellen Myers, board member, said she believes a compromise could be made and the district could allow people to call in the Monday of the meeting.
Board member Cathy Johnson is on the policy committee. She said she would take the issue back to the committee for review.
Johnson remarked, “It was never our intent to thwart public participation.”