Education

St. Charles School Board to clarify guidelines for public participation at School Board meetings

St. Charles School Board members in the coming months are expected to further clarify the district’s rules regarding public participation at board meetings.

St. Charles School Board members in the coming months are expected to further clarify the district’s rules regarding public participation at board meetings.

The board’s Citizen Advisory Committee has been discussing the issue and the topic was discussed again at Thursday’s meeting of the Citizen Advisory Committee’s Executive Team. The issue is expected to be discussed at a School Board meeting on Feb. 14, with possible action in March.

Carol Smith, the district’s director of communications and community relations and a member of the Citizen Advisory Committee’s Executive Team, said it was important to explain to people how a School Board meeting operates.

“Especially for those people who have not been to a board meeting before or haven’t watched a board meeting might think that this is an opportunity for them to dialogue with the board,” Smith said. “More understanding so they are not confused when they are standing at the microphone would probably be the best.”

Smith said the district also wants to emphasize that the board is “discussing business through their discussions and voting among the board members.”

Prior to the public comment portion of a meeting, a St. Charles School Board member will read a statement that “School Code provides for a public comment period at each board meeting subject to reasonable constraints. The practice of this board is to limit public comment to three minutes per speaker to a total of 30 minutes per meeting.”

During a discussion in July about public participation at board meetings, board member Becky McCabe said that a School Board meeting is not a town hall meeting.

“The time that we do our work is at a board meeting,” McCabe said. “If we wanted as a board to do a town hall – and please know that I’m not necessarily recommending that – that would look different. That would be a dialogue.”

McCabe talked about ways the board could better communicate about how a school board meeting is conducted.

“We’ve always talked about the administration putting together a brochure that can be put on chairs so that people know what a board meeting is all about,” she said.

In addition, McCabe stressed there are other ways a resident can reach out to the school board.

“I also think it’s real important that they also know there’s many ways to connect with us,” McCabe said. “This is one place of many where they can let their opinions be shared.”