Carmel Clay Schools considering rule changes for public participation at meetings

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The Carmel Clay Schools board of trustees reviewed several proposed policy and bylaw amendments at its June 25 meeting, including one that would decrease the maximum amount of time given to speakers making public comments.

CCS bylaws currently state that the presiding officer on the school board must limit the time of each speaker’s comments to not exceed five minutes. Usually the school board limits the comments to two minutes per person, and the proposed amendment would limit the maximum amount of time the presiding officer can give to three minutes per speaker. Another proposal is to limit the total time for public comment at a meeting to 30 minutes.

“I think five minutes has always been too long. We’ve never allowed anybody to speak for five minutes,” said board Vice President Pam Knowles, who is also on the policy committee. “The most they’ve ever spoken is for three minutes.”

Board member Michael Kerschner expressed concern with each speaker’s maximum time to two minutes, as it wouldn’t give the board president much flexibility in handling individual cases.

“We are sending a message that yes, your public comments are important, but only if you can spit it out in less than three minutes,” he said.

Board President Layla Spanenberg asked if the committee had considered limiting public comment to items on the agenda, as the school board can also be reached through email, messages left with administrators and discussion before or after board meetings. Knowles said the idea was considered but not something she supports.

“I think sometimes the public feels like they’re heard more if they stand at the podium and say what they have to say rather than in an email,” Knowles said.

Spanenberg said that the board is not required to provide any time for public comment during its meetings.

“It’s an option we’ve exercised to allow and encourage opportunities to share comments with the board,” she said.

Knowles said the policy committee will update the proposed amendments based on the school board’s discussion and present it for a vote at a later date. The school board’s next regular session is scheduled for 7 p.m. July 23.


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