EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WEHT) -EVSC board announced that members of the public can only speak on certain topics during the regular school meetings. This announcement comes after people have been asking for more transparency from the board for years.
The public comment section of EVSC school board meetings will now take place at the beginning of the meetings and will only pertain to topics already on the meeting’s agenda. Other comments will be taken during four, quarterly meetings held by the school board at various high schools in the district.
“I’d like for more transparency,” said former educator Ruth Baize.
“If they have a concern, we want to certainly address their concern,” said EVSC Superintendent Dr. David Smith.
EVSC’s announcement they are changing the way the public comment section of the school board meetings garnered both support and objection.
“It is now more difficult to be allowed to speak to EVSC,” said Tri-State Alliance President Wally Paynter.
“I would love to have back and forth, I can stand up here every time and speak but I don’t always get feedback,” said Baize.
Those wanting to speak publicly about an item not on the meeting agenda, they will have to wait until one of the upcoming quarterly meetings held by the EVSC.
“We don’t really know how much impact the public comment will have on public policy on EVSC,” said Paynter.
“Unfortunately they fulfilled their ongoing lack of transparency.I sent in 5 different requests for each of the agenda items I’d like to address and once they got to me, they said you’ve got 3 minutes for all of them,” said Attorney Charlie Berger.
“If he wants to address multiple agenda items, there are plenty of opportunities for him to do so. He basically felt like he’d rather have those conversations in the public and if that’s what he’d like to do then we have either this forum on the agenda topics or we have the town hall meetings,” said Supt. Smith.
“I believe they should do the town hall in addition to doing open public comment without any restrictions,” said Tri-State Alliance Vice President Julie Robinson.
Currently, the board is not legally obligated to respond to public comment during a school board meeting.
“With a school board meeting, it’s a meeting held in public, it’s not a public meeting. There’s nothing that requires any school board to accept public comment, this board wants to do that,” said Supt. Smith.
You can also contact board members directly to speak about an issue regardless of if it’s on the school board meeting agenda. To contact them, click here.
(This story was originally published on February 10, 2020)