School board debates second public comment period at meetings
Molalla community members are always welcome at school board meetings and are invited to take advantage of the public comment period to voice their opinions. For some time, there have been two opportunities for public comment – at the beginning and at the end of meetings.
In recent months though, the public comment portion of the meetings has at times exceeded an hour and has gone on for up to two hours. On more than one occasion, conversations surrounding the district's Student Success Act funding application were pushed off.
"My concern is if we have several hours of input and that is coming before really important board business, I do have a concern about that," said Mark Lucht, board member.
So, at the last regular meeting on Jan. 9, board leadership removed the second comment period from the agenda, which Vice Chair Neal Lucht noted is within leadership's power according to board policy.
Still, the second-comment issue was on the agenda for the full board to discuss.
"The way it's worked for a long time…has not been problematic, but it suddenly has become problematic for me," said Craig Loughridge, board member. "And it's not just me. We've heard members of the public; I've gotten emails from people in the public who have said they don't want to come to board meetings anymore and they don't even want to bring their kids or students to board meetings anymore because of the way the public and the board act.
"And that's really disturbing to me. Some of this is related to that second public comment period and that second bite at the apple," he said.
He suggested setting a rational time limit before again allowing that second public comment.
Ralph Gierke, longtime board member, pointed out that the second comment period was originally established to allow the public to comment on discussions and actions that took place during the meeting.
"I really like having that at the end of the meeting as well, because like Ralph said, they can comment on some of the things that we've done or reacted to during the meeting," Member Calvin Nunn said. "As a board, this is our only opportunity to interact with the public, is in this board room. We should give the community the opportunity to interact with us."
Neal Lucht suggested that if everyone was in favor of allowing the second opportunity, then it should be made official in board policy.
So, board members unanimously approved a motion to add a second comment period to the meeting agendas subject to working out a policy acceptable to the board, to be concluded by June 1, 2020.
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