Process to speak at school board meeting

Published 8:00 am Saturday, October 26, 2019

LaFAYETTE — Speaking at a Chambers County Board of Education meeting requires more than showing up at a meeting.

Those showing up at a public meeting, hoping to share their concern with the school board, requires getting on the agenda, according to Chambers County Superintendent Kelli Hodge.

“According to board policy, any item to be placed on the agenda of a regular meeting shall be submitted in writing to the superintendent no later than 2 p.m. on the Friday before the next scheduled Wednesday meeting,” Hodge said in an email to The Valley Times-News. “Further, comments involving specific concerns are to be addressed at specified levels in the following order: teacher, building level employee, principal, designated central office staff member as determined by the superintendent, superintendent and board.”

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She said the board policy also says it is the responsibility of the superintendent to put the agenda together.

Hodge said she has never denied anyone to be on the school agenda as long as they go through the proper channels to be placed on the agenda. However, just because a resident is placed on the agenda to speak to the board, it is a one-way conversation.

“Just because a person stands before the board to speak, the board can take no action at that point,” Hodge said. “It is to be heard only.”

She said school board meetings typically include public comments on the agenda one time each year, in addition to the normal process and the superintendent determines it. However, she said the board has never considered having public comments at every meeting.

“A lot of people do not understand the role of board members,” Hodge said. “The board members do not handle day-to-day operations of the district. They have four responsibilities by law: hire/terminate personnel, pass policy, pass a budget and hire a CSFO (chief school financial officer).”

At the Oct. 16 school board meeting, a resident attempted to speak just before the school board tried to adjourn its meeting. The board told her if the item wasn’t on the agenda, she could not make comments during the open session.

Michael Sibley, director of communications at the Alabama Department of Education, said the process used by the state board is similar to the method used by Chambers County.

“Residents are allowed to speak on any agenda item (for up to two minutes), but it must be an agenda item,” he said in an email to the Valley Times-News. “There is no other time allotted for public comment. Theoretically, if they want to discuss something, they would need to get it placed on the agenda first; then, they would have two minutes to discuss publicly before the board.”