With the podium becoming somewhat of a soapbox during the Saline Area Schools Board of Education public comment periods, the board is considering changes to how it accepts public comment.
Those who have been attending regular Saline school board meetings for the past year have noticed an increased number of speakers. The first public comment period is often quite long and significantly extends the stay of meeting visitors who are in attendance to give a presentation or participate with the board on other agenda items.
Typically, people speaking leave the meeting after playing their part in it.
A new policy could limit the first public comment period to issues that appear on the agenda. Speakers would also have to pre-register their participation in the first public comment period. Currently, people who arrive at the meeting can fill out a public comment request card on the spot and submit it to the board on arrival.
"The intent of this meeting is to conduct the business of the board of the school district, not to engage public discussion on topics that are not on the agenda," said Board President Paul Hynek.
Hynek said he would like to reserve the first public comment period specifically for agenda items so that the board may receive feedback from the public to take into consideration before having discussion or making policy decisions on the relevant business of the day.
Board members looked to other Michigan school districts for examples of alternative ways to handle public comment periods, some of which Hynek noted were a little too extreme. As an example, he pointed to one district that would divide 30 minutes between however many people wanted to speak, even if that meant every speaker only received 45 seconds.
Hynek said the policy change would allow the school board meetings to "run smoother."
Those who wish to speak on open-ended non-agenda item topics could still do so at the second public comment period at the end of the meeting.
This matter will be taken up for a vote at a future Saline school board meeting.