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Lakota Board Approves Change to Public Comment Policy; Introduces Listening Sessions

Lakota Board Approves Change to Public Comment Policy; Introduces Listening Sessions

At its special meeting on March 27, 2023, members of the Lakota Board of Education approved one change to policy 0169.1, public participation at board meetings in a 4-1 vote, with board member Darbi Boddy voting no.

The one-word change shifts “the Board shall provide” to “the Board may provide a period for public participation at every regular meeting of the Board and publish rules to govern such participation in Board meetings.” The revised policy still allows the Board to add public comment to a regular or special board meeting if needed. 

The change was initially discussed at the February board policy committee meeting and then presented for a first read at the March 6 board meeting. At the committee meeting, Interim Superintendent Robb Vogelmann shared his concerns with the board members about the tone and disruptive nature of Lakota’s board meetings. “How can we get that…meeting focused so there aren’t people yelling out and interrupting people, either at the table speaking or at the microphone speaking?” 

Concerns about not feeling safe at recent meetings have been raised by both attendees and staff. “My primary concern is safety,” President Lynda O’Connor told the committee at the February meeting. “I think we’ve had a lot of increased tension and concerns that we’ve talked about, safety concerns, at our meetings.” O’Connor went on to stress that it is important that the Board’s business meetings are efficient and productive.

In lieu of the traditional 30-minute public comment sessions, the Board will now hold 45-minute community listening sessions prior to regular board meetings. The listening sessions will take place in the East Freshman cafeteria beginning at 5:30 p.m. Those who wish to speak will still be required to sign up ahead of time by completing an online form or in person at Lakota’s Central Office during regular business hours. The sign-up form will be available when the board meeting’s agenda is posted to BoardDocs, typically by 9 a.m. on the Friday before the Monday meeting.

The community listening sessions will begin on April 3, 2023. A summary of the new procedures is as follows:

  • Community listening sessions will be held just prior to regular business meetings of the Lakota Board of Education. The sessions will be held in the East Freshman cafeteria.
  • The sessions will take place from 5:30-6:15 p.m., which is longer than the 30-minute public comment session during previous board meetings.
  • The public will continue to sign up either electronically or in person at Lakota’s Central Office by 9 a.m. on the day of the meeting. The sign-up form will open when the meeting’s agenda is posted in BoardDocs, typically by 9 a.m. the Friday before the meeting date.
  • Speakers will continue to have three minutes to address the Board, unless more than 15 people sign up. If there are more than 15 registered speakers, the Board may decrease speaking time to two minutes per person to allow more participants to speak.
  • Those registering to speak will receive an email confirmation from the treasurer’s office the day of the listening session to confirm their participation. This email will also confirm whether they will have three or two minutes to address the Board.
  • The Board has removed restrictions from topics allowed during the listening sessions.

A brief recap of what the Board heard during the listening session will be shared with the community during the business meeting. The complete administrative guidelines for community listening sessions can be found on BoardDocs.

  • school board