Have you ever attended a Kingston Board of Education (BOE) meeting? Have you wanted to share your thoughts with the Board of Education but not been sure how to go about doing so? I definitely do NOT have ‘all the answers’ but here are some tips and suggestions based on attending board of ed meetings over the last year and a half.
First, why might a parent even consider attending a Board of Education meeting?
- The Kingston City School District Board of Education is a board of nine volunteers (they receive NO pay) elected by the community to run a multi-million dollar organization (the school district).
- The BOE is ultimately responsible for hiring and evaluating the superintendent, evaluating and adopting all school district policies, serving as the body to resolve conflicts within the district, monitoring and adjusting the district finances and managing contracts with district employees.
- Big decisions are made at board meetings. The best way to know what those decisions are, how the BOE members stand on the issues and whether you agree is to attend the meetings. This also helps parents to be better informed when deciding which candidates they want to vote for in the yearly BOE elections.
- Kingston BOE meetings are live-streamed so a parent or community member can watch the meeting from home, however the board is not aware of who/how many people are watching so they have no feedback regarding interest or concern on particular topics. The meetings are also recorded and stored on the district website but the availability of the videos is dependent upon when the volunteers from the Kingston High School TV department are able to process the video and get it ready for viewing/uploading. This sometimes takes an extended time, for example as of Feb 17, 2014 no board meetings videos from 2014 have yet been posted for viewing.
Okay, you have decided to attend a BOE meeting, what now?
- The Board of Education Meeting Schedule is posted on the Kingston City School District website Kingston BOE Schedule 2013-2014 .
- The meetings generally start at 6pm but the board goes quickly into an executive session, which is not open to the public. Meeting attendees normally plan to arrive for Public Comment which is scheduled for 7pm although it could be later if the executive session runs long. When the BOE meetings are at a school rather than at the Cioni building, there might be a short welcome or presentation by the school before the executive session.
- The BOE meeting agenda is posted on the district website Meeting Files – Agendas, Resolutions and Minutes generally the Monday before the meeting. Print a copy and bring it with you if you want to follow along during the meeting. No materials are provided to the audience at the meeting.
- If you wish to speak during Public Comment, sign up on the list at the podium when you arrive. See additional tips below regarding speaking during Public Comment.
- If you have questions or concerns regarding some of the items being discussed, take notes. BOE meetings are required to be open to the public under the Open Meeting Law but the public is not allowed to participate in the discussion at the meetings, other than speaking during Public Comment. If you wish to comment on something that is discussed during the meeting, the Kingston BOE generally offers a second Public Comment opportunity at the end of the board meeting. You may also e-mail questions or comments to the board clerk or the board members. Contact information is available on the district website under the Board of Education tab.
Tips specific to speaking during Public Comment at the Kingston BOE meeting:
- Each speaker during Public Comment is limited to 2 minutes. You will receive a 30 second warning and you will be asked to stop speaking after 2 minutes so have your comments prepared so as to use your time efficiently.
- Remember that the board will not participate in a dialogue or answer questions during Public Comment due to the Open Meeting requirements that they are working under. Once in a while, if your comment catches a board member’s interest, they might refer to it during meeting discussion but they are not obligated to do so. Please do not be disappointed or think that it was not worth speaking because you did not get a response. This is just the way the meetings work. If a participant in Public Comment wishes to receive a response to their comment or question, they must submit a request in written form to the BOE clerk.
- If whatever you wish to share with the board will take longer than 2 minutes, there is a way you can get additional time to speak. If you bring additional people with you to the board meeting who also sign up to speak after you, when your 2 minutes is up, the next person can state that they cede their time to you and you can continue speaking. This takes planning and is not something you would normally want to do but it can be useful if you have a lot to share or if a group has a longer ‘presentation’ and wishes to have one person do all of the speaking for the group.
- You are not required to state your name when you speak (you don’t have to sign up to speak but if you don’t, be sure you are quick when the chairperson asks if there is anyone else who wishes to speak so you don’t miss out) but if you do give your name, remember that it is part of the meeting record and could appear in the meeting minutes or you could be quoted in the newspaper.
- Please use the microphone when you speak. You might think everyone can hear you but you probably are not speaking as loudly as you think. Also those viewing the board meeting at home will NOT be able to hear you if you do not use the microphone.
Are you up for attending a BOE meeting now? Do you still have questions? Leave a comment or send me an e-mail. Hope to see you at an upcoming BOE meeting!
Guide prepared by Jolyn Safron – February 18, 2014