Board members discussed changing policy to no longer require 24 hours notice.
Current board policy requires a written request be submitted outlining the topic to be discussed. The request must be submitted within 24 hours of the meeting. It is then reviewed by the executive committee.
If approved, the person is put on the agenda. The executive committee is made up of the board chairman and the director of schools.
Limiting comments to something on the agenda if the policy was changed was also discussed.
“I fear we are headed toward open mike night, and I am not in favor of that only because of the children,” board member Christy Critchfield said.
She voiced concern about students’ privacy if someone chose to name a student.
Critchfield said this was a concern because the meetings are public and streamed on the Internet.
Bradley County Schools director Johnny McDaniel said there had been an issue with this in the past.
“The people who call me most of the time want to talk about a child and their parents and why nobody in the school system fixed it,” Critchfield said.
She said once she has helped them, they no longer wanted to appear before the board.
Board member Nicholas Lillios said he would be in favor of adopting a system similar to that of local governments. Each local government has time set aside for comments from the public.
Lillios suggested limiting each comment to five minutes
“I’ve been on the board for 15 years, and I’ve never had one person call and complain (about the policy),” board member Troy Weathers said.
“My job is, if you’ve got a problem call me and I’ll direct you to whatever department there is, and it usually gets taken care of.”
Secretary for the director of schools Sammie Humphrey said many of the calls she gets from people wanting to appear before the board are about issues needing to be handled by a principal or McDaniel.
Lillios said the policy could be changed to waive the written request requirement, yet still have guidelines to protect student’s privacy.
“I brought this up in the beginning because we all know that perception is reality ... every single person who has talked to me ... has said, ‘well people can’t even talk to your board,” board member Chris Turner said.
Under current policy, individuals can speak to the board on an item being discussed, even if they are not already on the agenda, if they are formally recognized by the board chairman.
Critchfield said those who say the board does not allow individuals to comment have not read the policy.
Open forums were proposed as a way to connect with the community and get input.
Lillios said many may want to talk to the entire board when a forum is not planned.
“[In] an open forum, you can walk around a gymnasium or a cafeteria and speak to people ... and you’re not streaming live on the Internet. If you really want to get to the public, you stand on the same level as them. You don’t stand behind a podium,” Critchfield said.
Critchfield and Lillios said the board needed to schedule some open forums.
McDaniel said individuals can also call the central office and talk to him if they have questions.
Chairman Charlie Rose said he has never turned down a written request for someone to appear before the board.
Since the meeting was a work session, board members could not vote to change the policy.
Also during the day-long meeting:
- The board established goals for the coming year of becoming a Board of Distinction according to the Tennessee School Board Association standards and to publish an annual report. This report would be in addition to the financial report that is available annually on the school system website. The report would highlight the board’s work.
Board member Vicki Beaty said the board was already meeting many of the requirements and would simply need to document.
- McDaniel said work on the addition at Walker Valley High School was moving forward slowly. The project is currently waiting on approval of a permit from the county before the base for the building can be poured.