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BOE to review public participation policy, again

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

The Clayton County Board of Education will once again deliberate on proposed changes to the board's public participation policy -- an item of ongoing discussion for the last two months.

The issue will resurface when the board holds its December session at 7 p.m., at the school system's Central Administration Complex, 1058 Fifth Ave., Jonesboro.

This is the second time in less than 12 months changes to the public participation policy have been a topic of discussion by the school board.

In May, the board approved eliminating public participation from business meetings, so a separate meeting could be held for the public. The changes were made after a board meeting in March drew 50 people for public comment. The speakers at that meeting could only address the board for one minute each, so the board wanted a separate meeting, in which people would have more time to speak.

However, the separate public comment meetings never caught on with the public. The meetings rarely drew more than five speakers per month, which meant -- at a rate of three minutes per speaker -- the meetings usually lasted no more then 15 minutes. Furthermore, the only people attending the meetings usually were the ones who were speaking.

The school system decided to solicit public input on how public comment could be improved.

Now, the district is asking the board to approve restoring the public comment sessions to the business meetings. The speakers will still have three minutes to address the board. Thirty minutes would be set aside during the business meeting for public comment, which would mean 10 people could address board members.

There are some proposed additions, however, to allow more people to speak to the board. One proposal would give the board the authority to extend the public comment session, or the three minute limit, with a majority vote. Another proposal would give the board the authority to allow up to 30 minutes, immediately following the business meeting, for additional public comment.

Other items on the agenda for the meeting include: Superintendent John Thompson's monthly updates on accreditation; acceptance of the district's monthly finance report; Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) III revenues and construction report; purchasing and personnel changes reports; resolutions announcing that the school system has finished paying for construction projects at Jonesboro High School and M.D. Roberts Middle School; personnel recommendations, and a student tribunal.