Why won’t they answer my question?
Updated: Sep 24, 2022
Every Governing Board meeting provides a time for Public Comment. Community members are encouraged to attend and are given the opportunity to share input. It is understandable how frustrating it can feel when after working up the courage to speak before peers and address the Board that there is then no answer to a question or response to a comment. Why aren’t the Board members immediately responding to the public they are serving?
While it may be difficult to understand, the Board is abiding by the Open Meeting Law (OML), which is critical to a well-functioning Board. Most importantly, this law ensures that the Board is held accountable to the public it serves by conducting its business in public. It is also full of many complex requirements that members are expected to follow to be within the bounds of the Law.
If Board members were to allow discussion on a public comment, they could violate the restrictions outlined if this topic was not already listed on the agenda in the manner required. There are parameters set about what can be discussed and decided by the Board at each meeting. Although it may appear as if the Board is not responding, it is actually in the best interest of the public at large that they be notified of important topics ahead of time that are to be officially addressed at each meeting. Sometimes it may take time, but rest assured that the Board is listening and responsive.
One example of this is when parents had concerns about class size in the elementary schools 3 years ago. At that time, the public notified the Board of these concerns. After following legal procedure within the confines of OML, the Board committed the funding necessary to reduce class size in grades K-3 at all four elementary schools. They also identified class size reduction at additional grade levels as a Board priority. Working within the OML may cause some frustration and take some additional efforts, but it is ultimately a measure in place that serves both the Board and the public.
One of the CFSD parents, Kate S., who had this concern found the Board to be very approachable. She states, "As a parent of two students who have attended CFSD schools for 12 years, I feel lucky for the functioning and responsive school board we have. During the 2019-2020 school year, I was in regular communication with board members about class size within the district. Not only did they hear my concerns, but they invited me into the conversation, offering insight and education about the problem and possible solutions.”