The Camdenton R-III School board took a look at two different drafts of their public participation policy during its Sept. 9 meeting.
Following the August meeting, Susan Goldammer, Attorney and Senior Director at the Missouri School Boards Association, completed two drafts for the board to review. Both copies included the board's original policy with additional information added and some removed by Goldammer.
The first draft kept most of the policy the same but changed some of the rules stated by the president at each meeting. Many of the changes included tweaked wording and added explanations.
Instead of "The presentation must be kept brief (under five minutes)," the changed rule would say, "The Board will establish a maximum time limit for the public comment period and each individual may only speak for five minutes. The Board president will monitor the time and will strictly adhere to these time limits."
The rule stating that no one can speak more than once would be changed to only if there are not others that have not spoken.
The draft still includes that only items on the agenda can be discussed and includes if someone seeks to address an issue that is scheduled to be discussed in closed session, the Board may ask the person to hold their comments until closed session.
The last rule on the draft states, "The Board may vote to suspend or amend these rules in extraordinary circumstances. The Board may impose additional rules as it deems necessary and reserves the right to alter the above rules depending on the circumstances."
The second draft includes the same rule changes and fleshes out more in the beginning of the policy. Additional information was added to the Grievance through Established Policy and Procedure, Written Correspondence and Agenda Items sections.
The draft explains the channel that grievances should be dealt with in the district. First the issue should be brought to teachers, administrators and other staff before bringing it to the board. It also states, "The Board may refuse to hear an issue that has not been brought through the appropriate channels."
Anyone wanting to communicate with the Board is encouraged to write directly to them. The draft says that any written correspondence addressed to the Board will be given to all Board members. The written correspondence is limited to no more than two pages and a member can request that an issue brought to their attention by written correspondence be placed on the agenda for the next regular board meeting.
Agenda items are to be received at least seven days before a scheduled meeting. The draft does include a section that states, "The Board does not guarantee that it will hear any agenda item and reserves the right to refuse to hear an agenda item, particularly upon the advice of legal counsel or if the subject was discussed in a previous meeting."
Page 2 of 2 - Board members looked over each policy. Superintendent Tim Hadfield reminded the board that the two drafts were simply suggestions and could be tweaked if they wished to do so.
Board member Laura Martin had an issue with still only allowing public comment to be about items on the agenda.
"We don't seem to follow that well," Martin said. "I feel like if we aren't able to enforce it, it shouldn't stay on there."
John Beckett agreed with Martin while others felt as if limiting comments to agenda items only, the meeting would be conducted in an efficient manner.
Assistant Superintendent Roma France introduced the board to the idea of having board email addresses. Emails would go to a mail distribution group, firstname.lastname@example.org, which would be sent to each board member along with the superintendent or a designee. Members could respond directly to the original sender but not to the other board members. In most cases, the superintendent or administration will be the one to respond. If several emails are sent on one topic, that topic could become an agenda item.
France did tell the board that all emails on the school account are subject to the Sunshine Law. Emails on their personal accounts may or may not be subject to the Sunshine Law.
If the board chooses to get board email addresses, they are to never 'reply all' and make sure that it is clear that if they respond with an answer or opinion that it is their opinion and not that of the entire board.
"I think this is a huge step forward, in my opinion," Beckett said.
Martin agreed and said that she feels like part of the issue with communication is that some people just need to feel like they are being heard.
Other board members including Tom Williams agreed, but wanted to make sure the board goes about this the right way.
"Let's be careful, but I like what I'm hearing," he said.
The board did not make any official decisions on public commenting policy or board email addresses. Board members were encouraged to send any feedback or questions to Hadfield before the next regularly scheduled board meeting.