Policy BEDH: Public Participation at Committee Meetings

All regular and special meetings of the School Committee will be open to the public. These meetings are business meetings held in public session. Executive sessions will be held as necessary and as prescribed by state law. (See also Policy BEC.)
The School Committee welcomes residents of the District and visitors to attend its meetings so that they may become better acquainted with the operations and the programs of its local public schools. In addition, the Committee appreciates the opportunity to hear the wishes and ideas of the public on issues of School Committee business.  If a resident or other individual would like to comment to the School Committee, they may do so by mail or email at any time. Comments may be sent to the chair, to an individual member, or to the entire committee. Mail and email sent to School Committee members in their role as School Committee members are considered to be public documents.
 

Public Comment

During a business meeting, residents and visitors may be recognized to address the Committee during the time designated for Public Comment, normally scheduled near the beginning of the meeting. In order that many individuals who wish to be heard before the Committee have such a chance and to insure the ability of the Committee to conduct the district’s business in an orderly manner, the following rules and procedures are adopted:

  • At each regularly scheduled School Committee meeting, individuals or group representatives will be invited to address the Committee. Public Comment normally will be for a period no longer than 15 minutes. The length of the Public Comment segment will be determined by the Chair.
  • Public Comment may be presented through a verbal statement during an in-person meeting, a recorded voice message, or a written email message. All remarks will be addressed to the Chair. Written remarks, being the expression of the views of the writer, will be displayed on-screen during in-person or remote meetings and will not be read aloud. Written remarks should be sent to the Chair and clearly labeled as Public Comment; email not labeled as such will not be included in the Public Comment segment of the meeting. All voice and email messages for Public Comment must be received by a deadline that will be noted in the meeting agenda in order to be included in that meeting’s Public Comment segment.
  • An Individual wishing to address the Committee must be recognized by the Chair and should begin  with the individual’s stated or written name, town of residence and/or affiliation to the District, and the topic they plan to address. Speakers generally will be allowed a maximum of three (3) minutes to speak or for their written comment to be displayed. Speakers may not assign their time to another speaker, but the Chair may permit extension of this time limit.
  • A group of individuals wishing to address the Committee should designate one member of the group as a spokesperson to be heard on the topic. Other members of the group may also be heard if they feel they can offer additional information on the topic.
  • The Chair of the meeting, after a warning, reserves the right to terminate speech which is not constitutionally protected because it constitutes true threats that are likely to provoke a violent reaction and cause a breach of the peace, or incitement to imminent lawless conduct, or contains obscenities.
  • Public Comment is not a discussion, debate, or dialogue between residents and the Committee. It is an opportunity to express one’s opinion on issues of School Committee business.
  • Topics of comments should be limited to those items within the School Committee's scope of authority. The authority of the School Committee primarily concerns the review and approval of the budget of the District's public schools, the performance of the Superintendent, and the educational goals and policies of the District's public schools. Comments and complaints regarding school personnel (apart from the Superintendent) or students are generally prohibited unless those comments and complaints concern matters within the scope of School Committee authority. Under most circumstances, administrative channels are the proper means for disposition of legitimate complaints involving staff members.
  • If an issue could be resolved by directing an individual to an appropriate staff member, the Superintendent or Chair may advise the individual of appropriate steps to take.
  • If questions or inquiries can be answered briefly based on available information the Committee Chair or Superintendent may respond at that time, however, the Chair may request that the question be put in writing to the appropriate person so that the matter is given the proper consideration.

Public Participation During Agenda Items 

During a business meeting, residents and visitors may be recognized to address the Committee about particular items on the agenda, at the discretion of the Chair. The School Committee members will discuss the agenda item before any public comments are taken.

Public Hearings

If the School Committee believes that an issue requires a broader dialogue with the community, the Committee may schedule a separate public hearing on that issue. (See also Policy BEE .)

Printed copies of these rules and procedures for public participation will be available at School Committee meetings. In the event that a printed copy is unavailable, the Chair will explain the rules for addressing the Committee.

LEGAL REF:
MGL 30A:18 , 30A:20, 30A:21, 30A:22 , 30A:23
CROSS REF:
Policy BEC
Policy BEE
 
Region voted to approve: August 25, 2020
Amherst voted to approve: August 25, 2020
Pelham voted to approve: August 25, 2020
Effective Date: August 25, 2020