Archive for Thursday, June 29, 2006

Board appreciates public comment

June 29, 2006

An important process of the De Soto USD 232 Board of Education, which does not seem to be readily understood, revolves around the citizens' comment portion of the regular business meeting. This is something the De Soto board has historically included in its business meetings.

The board is not required to allow comments from citizens during meetings and many boards across the country and Kansas have chosen to discontinue the practice in recent years. Not USD 232, however. The board wants to hear from constituents.

Citizens' comments is a portion of the meeting to allow the board to "actively listen" to constituents, not to engage the speaker in a debate or dialogue. We follow a prescribed process to ensure the meeting remains an orderly, productive business meeting.

All community members who wish to speak are given an opportunity during the business meeting. The only limit is that each individual try to keep his or her comments to five minutes or less. This is an excellent opportunity for the community to comment on previous actions by the board, upcoming votes or suggestions for improvement.

Obviously, board members appreciate when this opportunity is used to provide feedback and opinions. No effort is made to keep citizens from expressing any comments or concerns they might have.

Once all community members have had an opportunity to provide comments, the business meeting is resumed and follows the published agenda. A future agenda item might be requested to be included if anything brought up by the public requires discussion by the board.

Anything related to individual schools or staff members would be addressed by the superintendent -- not the Board of Education -- unless the issue relates to policy or a systemic problem which is affecting the quality of education within the school or district.

A powerful way for citizens to be heard and receive information -- no matter who they are -- is to contact their elected board members directly. Contact information is readily available on the board's Web site or by calling the district office. We offer e-mail addresses and home telephone numbers.

Our board members desire to hear from their constituents. Recently, a board member requested an issue to be placed on the agenda of the business meeting to specifically address the concerns of a group of parents. Why? Because the board member heard from citizens and listened to their concerns.

Citizens' comments during the regular business meeting are just one avenue to be heard. The ultimate voice of citizens is to vote. Voters choose who will represent their interests at the Board of Education.

Finally, the decisions board members make affect them and their children the same way as any other family or taxpayer. They serve for many reasons, but each wants to give back to the community and along the way have a positive impact on the education provided to children, while being responsible stewards.

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