Kravetz: Scottsdale Schools does not want to stifle public comment

I am writing in response to Rony Assali’s recent op-ed about the rearrangement of public comment during Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board meetings that was initiated at our Jan. 16 meeting.

Sandy Kravetz

Anyone who has been in SUSD for any length of time knows our community would not be silenced by such a move. I certainly know that, and it was not my intention.

I voted to move public comment after the “Superintendent’s Comments and Information/Discussion Items,” not to silence voices, but to accommodate parents who had expressed difficulty in arriving at our meetings at 5 p.m. to be there in time to speak. As my colleague Kim Hartmann mentioned at the Dec. 12 Governing Board meeting, we also wished to accommodate those community members in the workforce who could not arrive at our meetings in time for public comment.

Readers can view the Governing Board’s 15-minute discussion about the placement of public comment on the agenda during our Dec. 7 work study meeting (starting at approximately 1:59:00). We also discussed public comment at our Dec. 12 regular meeting (starting at approximately 2:57:00).

Moving statements by the public after “Information/Discussion Items” allows people who want to comment on an agenda item to hear a discussion first. Our deliberation may clarify a topic and address their concerns.

The board also moved public comment as a courtesy to teachers and principals who participate in presentations that often times were beginning quite late. By moving presentations such as continued improvement plan updates before public comment, those in attendance can learn about the academic improvements occurring in our schools. Typically, many attendees (and those watching via the live video feed) left our meetings after public comment and missed learning about the strides we are taking to educate all of our students.

My hope in moving the public comment section on the agenda was to engage our community and enable stakeholders to learn first-hand about the academic and operational improvements we are undertaking.

Mr. Assali also commented on the frequency of the Governing Board convening in executive session. As the former president of the Scottsdale Education Association, surely Mr. Assali is aware that the Governing Board meets in executive session only for those purposes permitted by law, including personnel issues and the sale of real estate property, such as the pending sale of the old district offices.

All of these meetings are in accordance the state statute that permits executive sessions for specific reasons, ARS 38-431.03, and with the guidance of at least one attorney in attendance to provide guidance and to ensure we remain on task and solely discuss executive session agenda items. After adjourning from executive session, the board convenes in public to vote.

The Governing Board will be reviewing the issue and perhaps reassess the placement of public comment on our meeting agenda, as requested by my colleague Allyson Beckham at the end of our March 20 meeting.

Editor’s note: Ms. Kravetz is a member of the Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board

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