Featured image of article: Thank You for Your Public Comments at Board Meetings

Thank You for Your Public Comments at Board Meetings

August 24, 2021

The Board would like to acknowledge the members of our community that have taken the time to provide public comments at our recent Board meetings. We recognize that this requires you to take time out of your day to prepare your remarks and attend the meetings. In addition, for many people addressing the Board in such a public setting may be stepping outside of their comfort zone, and we want to acknowledge that as well. Thank you all for taking the time to attend the Board meetings and for providing public comments. 

New Englanders are used to unprecedented access to local government. The Town Meeting form of government is a truly unique experience and represents direct democracy in action. Town Meeting and the District’s Deliberative Session are true public meetings. Board Meetings are, instead, meetings that take place in public. When combined with the back and forth exchanges that occur on social media, the 24/7 news cycle, and the instantaneous nature of our economy (Amazon, Door Dash, video streaming services, etc.) it is understandable that people are frustrated when attending School Board meetings and giving public comment only to see little reaction from Board members, receive no feedback after their statements, or not receive answers to questions asked to the Board. It is important that the members of the public know that we are listening to you. We hear what you say when you speak during public comments. We read all of the emails that you send us. There are times when we may want want to respond, but for many reasons, that is not the way these meetings are structured. It is also likely that even when discussing a topic you may have spoken about, we will not always directly address something you may have said.  

Board Meetings are not Town Meeting. Board Meetings are for the Board to conduct the business of the District. Public comment periods at Board meetings are entirely optional and at the discretion of the Board. However, the Board firmly believes that our community members should have an opportunity to address the Board and so our policy promotes having two public comment periods at each meeting, whenever possible. In order to allow as much participation as possible, we limit each speaker to 2 minutes and once per meeting. We also ask speakers to address the Board on matters specific to the District and School Board business. Community members should always feel free to email or call members to talk about their concerns as well. Depending on the issue, it is also important to reach out to the principals and administrators and not just the Board. 

The Board also recognizes that the public is interested in a more interactive experience. To this end, the Board has decided to hold quarterly public forums where Board members or members of the administration will answer questions submitted ahead of time as well as field questions from the live audience in attendance. The Board has not done something like this before, but we hope that it will provide our community members an opportunity for more interactive discussions and communication with the Board. More information on these community forums will be posted shortly.