Chair Richard Franklin asked for the board to review its policy on accepting submissions and questions from the public at a meeting in the fall. File photo/Campbell River Mirror

Campbell River school board changes public input policy

Public will have to submit questions to district in writing

School District 72 trustees have changed the way how delegation requests and questions can be brought forward at board of eduction meetings.

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This follows a suggestion made by chair Richard Franklin at a meeting of the new board in the fall following the October elections in order to maintain decorum and give the trustees the opportunity to receive any relevant background material.

He reiterated his reasons for the idea at the last meeting in December.

“The board of education must make itself available to hear from our constituents,” he said. “There will be times when we agree with them and there will be times when we disagree, but it is important to allow for public input.”

Franklin said the amended policy will ensure the board is given all of the information it needs.

“The amendments will also ensure that the information that is of a confidential nature would be provided to the board in an appropriate way and at an appropropriate time,” he said.

The board revised its governance policy. Now, individuals or groups that wish to make a presentation must submit an application along with any supporting materials in advance of the meeting.

The board is also limiting presentations to no more than 10 minutes each for a total maximum of 20 minutes for all presentations at a meeting.

As well, the question period at the end of each meeting will be set to a maximum of 15 minutes. Questions should be submitted in writing, with a limit of one question per person.

As has been the case, only questions on agenda items will be answered if board or staff have information available at the meeting.

The board will also give priority to those people that have not presented as part of the agenda.

“I want to ensure that all questions are responded to and that a record is kept to ensure that there is accountability to our constituents,” Franklin said.

Following Franklin’s suggestion, the district looked for feedback that could be sent to the policy review committee meeting, which received no feedback or concerns from the public over the change in direction.

Trustee Daryl Hagen said he understood about the need for the board not to lose control of meetings but had some concerns about one clause, specifically, the manner in which people could bring up questions at meetings, especially around submitting questions to the superintendent’s office in advance of a meeting or during the meeting if they are written and signed.

“Personally, I’m looking for more participation from people who come to meetings,” he said, adding writing down questions might not work best for all members of the public. “I would suggest that perhaps this is a little too far for me…. I think we should be careful to have that balance.”

Franklin said the idea to submit questions in advance is geared more toward people reflecting on an issue at a meeting that wish to raise something later for subsequent discussion.

On the matter of accepting questions in writing at the meeting, the chair said the practice parallels what happens at municipal government and with other school districts.

As well, he said these question may take many forms including confidential issues.

Often times, the questions might be about something not on the agenda.

“What we’ve seen in the past is that most of the questions asked actually aren’t about what happened during the meeting, so what this does is helps us sort those questions out,” he said.

The motion to amend the policy for public input passed, with Hagen and Kat Eddy voting in opposition.