RANCHO SANTA FE — Rancho Santa Fe School District board member Sarah Neal brought up the topic of public comment during the Feb. 2 monthly board meeting.
This was only a discussion item. Neal wanted to know if the board would consider moving the public comment portion of the meeting, when it related to an agenda item, to that agenda time slot rather than having it take place at the beginning of the meeting as it currently stood.
Neal acknowledged how the community remains a big supporter of the school and how their input is valued. She believed that the public would be able to give the most meaningful comment after they heard the background information on an agenda item during the course of the meeting that they wouldn’t otherwise know at the onset.
“The other reason I think it’s going to be better for us if we allow that input to come at the agenda item is because it’s going to be more efficient for the meeting because we’re only talking about that agenda item once.”
Neal also shared examples of other nearby school boards who conducted public comment in a similar fashion.
School board president Todd Frank shared how over the years, he has seen the latitude a president can have and has never witnessed a time where anyone was denied the chance to give their input.
“I’m trying to think what problem we’re solving because I’ve never been in a position in six years where someone didn’t get a chance to give the feedback that they needed to or that they couldn’t make their needs known,” Frank said.
And if the public had more to offer, Frank said, a town hall style meeting could occur which would provide interaction designed to elucidate different issues, comments and viewpoints.
Especially with the flexibility the board has with their policy, Frank said, he suggested they wait and see until a situation did arise and move forward to manage and mandate through it.
Neal, however, still felt that for the public, a parent or even a teacher who wants to provide a comment, it would be more beneficial for them to have the opportunity to hear the background information about the agenda items first. Neal then cited an example of when a public comment portion of a school board meeting was pulled into print media and appeared somewhat disjointed.
“Again, that comment maybe wasn’t as appropriate because it was given at the beginning of the meeting where that individual didn’t have the details that the rest of the Board did have; and, so it’s almost like misreporting because the comment was given at the beginning, but yet the details of that agenda item were discussed later in the meeting.”
School Board Vice President Tyler Seltzer said that in his experience no one has ever had trouble sharing their input with him no matter what the public comment part has indicated.
“I don’t think there’s a problem here that needs to be solved,” Seltzer said.