The Board of Education made those changes last week.
Frederick, Md (KM) Some changes are coming to the comment portion of Frederick County School Board meetings. In a 4-2 vote last week, the Board of Education approved a policy which sets aside one hour of its meetings for citizen comments. Previously, it was only 30-minutes.
Residents could sign up to speak starting five days prior to the meetings. There would be 20 slots set aside for speakers at School Board meetings, and ten of them would be for those who signed up on line. Those who signed up the day of the meeting would have five slots, and students would have the other five slots.
Those signing up beginning five days before the meeting can fill out a form on the Board of Education’s website, or call 301-696-6965. Those who received a slot to speak at an upcoming meeting will be notified by e-mail and asked to confirm their availability.
Instead of speaking in public, residents could e-mail their comments to https://www.fcps.org/boe/meeting-schedule.
The issue that dominated much of the discussion last Wednesday at the School Board meeting had to do with those who want to speak at more than one meeting. An individual who spoke at one meeting would be rotated to the bottom of the sign up list for the next meeting. “I do not want us picking winners. We have never picked winners,” said Board Member Jason “Mr. J” Johnson. “The public’s actions and their intent and their passion that’s what makes the list; not us.”
Board Member Karen Yoho supported the change. “This is going to open this up for more people for more opinions and it’s only one meeting that you’re out of the speaking in public. And then we have these other options,” she said.
Dean Rose, School Board Vice President, agreed that this would allow more people to speak. “This makes it equitable for people who have never had the opportunity to share their thoughts. That have an opportunity to come and speak before the Board,” he said.
Trudy Tibbats told the School Board that citizens should be allowed to testify at any meeting regardless of whether they spoke at a previous meeting. “I just think that when you start picking and choosing, then you are starting to favor different people of the public and that’s not what public comment is all about. That’s infringing people’s freedom of speech,”; she said.
But the public will still have the opportunity to comment when the Board of Ed is debating or discussing specific issues, and plan to take a vote on that individual issue.
Board Members Rose, Yoho, Rae Gallagher and David Bass voted in favor of the new policy; Johnson and Nancy Allen voted against it.
By Kevin McManus