Advertisement
Carroll County Times
Carroll County Education

Carroll school board tables decision on limiting number of speakers and topics at public meetings

In an effort to add more transparency to its Citizen Participation Policy for public school board meetings, the Carroll County Board of Education opted not to vote Wednesday night on policy changes and instead asked staff to tweak certain sections of it.

Ten people spoke against the policy changes Wednesday night and the school board received numerous emails from the public during the last month, stating opposition to changes that included limiting the number of speakers at each meeting to 15 and allowing the board president to decide who could speak at meetings when requests exceeded the maximum 15.

Advertisement

The school board will again discuss the policy and vote on changes to it at the board’s next public meeting Oct. 12.

“I understand that you have to limit the speakers ... my concern is transparency in the selection process,” said Wendy Novak of Eldersburg, whose children attend county public schools. “I hope it will be announced how the speakers were selected.”

Advertisement

“A parent could have children in our schools even if they do not reside here,” she said. “A parent should have the right to participate in citizen participation.”

CCPS parent Maureen Aversa of Manchester also advocated for more transparency in the policy.

“I do have concerns with transparency and how participants will be picked,” Aversa said. “It’s a dangerous message to send.”

Parent Flex Colon of Westminster said he understands something needs to be done but limiting public participation is not the way. Colon said that if 60 people want to speak on a certain topic, obviously there is a concern, and the school board should hear them all.

“I feel like limiting the public voices in this particular way means you guys have already made up your minds on an issue,” he said.

Advertisement

Superintendent Cynthia McCabe presented proposed revisions to the school system’s policy on citizen participation at the Aug. 17 board meeting. Revisions, which can be viewed on the school system’s website, include limiting the number of people who may participate in public comment at each monthly meeting to 15, and limiting statements they make to those that “relate to an agenda item for that evening’s meeting.”

The policy revisions also propose a new sign-up process done in advance mostly via the CCPS website. Currently members of the general public may sign up to speak at Board of Education meetings by filling out a blue paper citizen participation card at the start of each meeting.

School board members acknowledged the speakers’ concerns and suggested several changes to the policy adjustments, such as how speakers would be selected to give public comment once the maximum number of 15 is exceeded.

“I think there are definitely some changes that need to be made; that is based on what we’ve heard from the public,” school board member Donna Sivigny said. “I think we’re trying to make the process more transparent and more organized, and make sure that we allow the maximum number of people as possible.

“... But I understand folks’ concerns, and I think that we should make it obvious we’re not going to be the one selecting the speakers,” she said.

Sivigny suggested that a list of all the people who sign up to speak at each meeting could be listed on the CCPS website, to make things more transparent.

Advertisement

The BOE’s attorney, Edmund O’Meally, also had some suggestions to address community concerns. He suggested removing “Citizen Participation” from the policy title and changing it to “Public Participation.”

This way any person who has a connection to CCPS, such as a divorced parent who does not live in the county but has a child in the school system, could still give public comment before the school board. Under the proposed changes, only county residents would be able to speak at meetings.

“We’re trying to make it more fair, we’re trying to make it more transparent,” said school board President Kenny Kiler. “I think anybody reasonable recognizes we can’t spend two or three hours with public comment.”

Carroll County Daily Headlines

Carroll County Daily Headlines

Daily

Get the day's top news and sports headlines.
Advertisement

Advertisement