County school board to discuss public participation
by Mark Andrews
Jan 15, 2013 | 1149 views | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print
During Monday’s Bartow County Board of Education meeting, board member Fred Kittle asked for an agenda item dealing with public participation at board meetings be tabled for further discussion.

“Essentially what I’m doing is asking the board to change the policy that [public participation], that the board has the leeway to put [public participation] wherever they want to inside the agenda,” Superintendent John Harper said during the board’s regular business session. “I’m not asking that it be eliminated. It’s just that the policy calls for a specific time and I’m asking that we have some flexibility in there.”

Kittle and boardmember Anna Sullivan said they had heard concerns from community members who have expressed difficulty in signing on for the agenda for public participation at 5:15 p.m. the day of a board’s regular work session.

“Maybe we could have in there [those wanting to be on the agenda for public participation], they can respond by email or fax …,” Kittle said.

Sullivan added, “… If you have a family where there are two working parents, meeting that deadline to be here at 5:15 is hard …, and I think another thing we need to consider is the time for public participation needs to be consistent. One of the things people have suggested is moving participation to the end of the meeting … if you are running late or you’re having issues with child care and balancing making sure your family is taken care of.”

Harper reiterated during the meeting that the intent of the public participation portion of the meeting is to hear from the public, but is not intended to generate dialogue between participants and board members during the meeting.

The public participation portion of Monday’s meeting included parents who expressed concern over what both parents and the school system itself can do to further student safety.

“I think a lot of times we, as parents, take our kids to school … and we take it for granted. And I feel like a lot of parents have become — and I’ll just say this bluntly — lazy about informing ourselves and informing our kids, and there’s only so much [the board of education] can do … I would like to take a proactive role,” parent Paige Martin said. “I would like to know from you guys what can we as parents do to provide a safer place for [board members], staff and our children.”

She added she wants increased communication from the system regarding student safety measures.

“I’m going to try to develop strategies to support [parent involvement] …,” Harper said. “What I suggest to parents is, if they have time, go by and see their [child’s] school, ask their principal if there’s some volunteer work they can do inside there. The [principal] will appreciate that — another set of eyes looking at what we’re doing — and as educators we may all think inside of the same box, but somebody as a parent they think outside of that box.”

He added, “At this day and time for these issues they’re discussing … we need as many eyes looking at that and as many solutions as we can.”

The board will delay its first hearing on the public participation policy change during next month’s meeting.

In other news, the board during a special called meeting preceding the work session and business session reelected board chairman Davis Nelson 3-1 with Kittle voting to oppose the re-election. Kittle won the election of vice chairman 4-0.