To: Members of the Eliot Board of Selectmen and the South Berwick Town Council
From: Mary Nash, Superintendent of Schools, MSAD 35
Date: November 12, 2015
Re: MSAD 35 Board of Directors Public Participation Policy and Practices
On Wednesday, October 7, 2015 the MSAD 35 Board of Directors convened a workshop regarding the topic of public participation at Board meetings. The Board’s attorney, Tom Trenholm, facilitated this workshop. At the conclusion of the workshop, the consensus of the Board was that there were appropriate procedures in place to provide both opportunities and guidelines for public participation at Board meetings, to ensure that the Board’s work could be done effectively, efficiently and according to Maine state law. Although the Board has always welcomed the public to attend its meetings and to comment on the work of the district, there was also consensus around the idea that the Board could improve the way in which it communicated its practices of providing public participation at Board meetings.
To this end, the Board has made the following improvements to its public participation policy and practices:
- The Board has changed the heading on its meeting agenda as follows:
From: Scheduled Audience to the Public
To: Opportunity for Public Comment on Items Not on the Agenda.
- The Board deleted the requirement of having citizens provide the Superintendent with three days’ written notice of items they would like to have added to the Board’s agenda. Citizens must still request to address the Board on matters not on the agenda through the Superintendent but this can be done any time right up until the Board meeting begins. It is important to note that the rules around what can and cannot be discussed are still in effect and are clearly outlined both in the Public Participation Policy as well as in the Board’s brochure available at all Board meetings. It is also important to recognize that if an item is not deemed appropriate for public comment that does not mean it will not be addressed. Every question will still be answered, but that may be in a different format – a meeting with the Superintendent or Business Manager as one example.
- The Board’s Chairperson now makes clear at every Board meeting that in addition to Opportunities for Public Participation on Items Not on the Agenda, opportunities for public participation will also be provided to citizens for items ON the agenda once the Board has discussed that item at the Board meeting. Although this has been a Board practice, by having the Board’s Chairperson underscore this invitation, it should clarify the Board’s openness to hearing from members of the public regarding items on the agenda.
On behalf of the Board of Directors, I wish to thank the elected officials from both Eliot and South Berwick who were in attendance at the Board’s workshop on public participation. We are confident that the changes to the Board’s practices noted above will encourage citizens to share their ideas and think openly with the Board in an effort to find ways to best support our schools.
Please let me know if you require any additional information.