L.C. board debates public comment policy change

2013-04-29T20:45:00Z 2013-04-30T13:08:04Z L.C. board debates public comment policy changeLU ANN FRANKLIN Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
April 29, 2013 8:45 pm  • 

ST. JOHN | The Lake Central School Corp. board examined Monday whether the public comment portion of School Board meetings should be modified and how the district’s new strategic plan will be produced.

New board member Janice Malchow asked during a special study session the public comment policy be put on the agenda for discussion.

For several years, the board's policy has been to have a public comment period after all the official business is conducted. Audience members sign up prior to that period to ask questions or make comments about items on and not on the agenda, said George Baranowski, board president

“Multiple people come to me and say 'how do they make decisions without public comment?' That is not well received by the public,” Malchow said at the start of the discussion.

School Corp. Attorney Cheryl A. Zic said the Open Door Act in Indiana law does not require public comment at any meeting held to conduct public business, whether that is a school corporation or a municipal board.

“Whether a public comment period is held is strictly a policy decision (of the board),” Zic said.

Board members Howard Marshall, John DeVries and Don Basko said they wouldn’t like to see a public exchange before every vote, which is the way the board conducted business in decades past.

“We’re a corporation with a $75 million budget. We hire administrators to run the school system to benefit the students, parents and other stakeholders,” said Marshall, who has been on the School Board since 1985.

“If the community has concerns, they can email us or phone us. We don’t hide. They surely can get to us before a board meeting,” Marshall said. “If there is an overwhelming concern, get to us first.”

Being on the School Board means “letting go of the detail level we may have been used to,” Baranowski said. “Our job is to guide and make policy. (School Board meetings) are not a town hall meeting.”

The new district strategic plan will be issued in 2015 with work beginning in September, said Superintendent Larry Veracco.

A committee will be formed including board members, administrators and staff to address such as areas as student achievement and programming. The work will continue through this year and next.

Malchow suggested using Indiana superintendents and university professors as consultants in preparing the strategic plan. Veracco and other board members supported that idea.

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