Scottsdale school board agrees to move public comment down agenda

Community members often use the Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board’s public comment portion to address the elected leaders. (file photo)

The Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board will be trying a new agenda order for their monthly board meetings — mostly, moving the public comment and discussion items portions.

During a Thursday, Dec. 7 special meeting at Mohave District Annex, 8500 E. Jackrabbit Road, the Governing Board discussed making a revision to their board policy pertaining to agendas.

Pointing to a recent Governing Board meeting where school principals were asked to make presentations, the district leaders proposed moving information/discussion items higher-up on the agenda, and moving public comment below that.

The current agenda is:

  • Pledge of Allegiance
  • Roll call
  • Approval of agenda
  • Student and staff recognition
  • Public comment
  • Superintendent’s comments
  • Consent Agenda
  • Action Items
  • Information/discussion items
  • Future items
  • Dates of upcoming meetings
  • Governing board reports
  • Adjournment.

“The last board meeting that we had, we had three amazing presentations, but because how our agendas are set, unfortunately I think a lot of people missed some of the very best part of the whole meeting, when principals made those presentations,” Superintendent Dr. Denise Birdwell explained at the onset of the discussion.

“What spurred some conversation about the order of the agenda — with conversations with principals, it was a long night for them.”
The public comment portion of Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board meetings has, for several of the most recent months, yielded a large number of speakers.

Dr. Birdwell says her staff looked into what other school districts and municipalities do. The city of Scottsdale, she says, features their discussion items prior to their public comment.

“They do the information items, then they do the call to the public, then they do their action items with the intent that the call to the public is closer to item that they’re probably going to discuss and actually take a vote on,” she said. “Some school districts put their public comments to the very end of the meeting, so it’s really up to a governing board to determine the order of an agenda.”

Governing Board member Sandy Kravetz says having public comment further down the agenda may give parents a better opportunity to make it to the meeting by 5 p.m.

“If we look at this in a positive light, some parents who try to make our board meetings, it is difficult for them to get there by 5 o’clock,” Ms. Kravetz said. “If you’re dropping your child off at soccer, need to make dinner, whatever, you’re killing yourself trying to get there by 5. So having public comment further down on the agenda may be beneficial for that reason.”

Ms. Kravetz also noted that some speakers may amend or pull their comment after hearing the discussion items and the superintendent’s comments.

The Governing Board agreed that moving the public comment portion below the information/discussion items and superintendent’s comments carries merit when questions by the public might be answered prior to being asked.

“For myself, this isn’t a reactionary change,” Governing Board Vice President Pam Kirby said in the Dec. 7 meeting. “I’ve had this frustration for some time now, I think it was punctuated at the last meeting because the principals that presented at the very, very end, those presentations were immensely powerful.”

The Governing Board is eying approving the policy change at their Tuesday, Dec. 12 regular meeting; and using the new schedule at their January meeting.

The new schedule is proposed to be:

  • Pledge of Allegiance
  • Roll call
  • Approval of agenda
  • Student and staff recognition
  • Superintendent’s comments
  • Information/discussion items
  • Public comment
  • Consent Agenda
  • Action Items
  • Future items
  • Dates of upcoming meetings
  • Governing board reports
  • Adjournment.

Northeast Valley News Services Editor Melissa Rosequist can be e-mailed at mrosequist@newszap.com or can be followed on Twitter at twitter.com/mrosequist_.

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable. Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the arrow in the upper right corner of the comment box.

Facebook Comment