March 24, 2020
Dear President Wilkerson and Members of the Board of Education,
We write to you concerning the protocols for the March 26, 2020 Action Meeting.
Holding a meeting that the public cannot attend in person violates the PA Sunshine Act, but of course the Board must heed the health warnings from city and state officials. The alternative is to hold a virtual meeting that the public can both observe and participate in. Current technology allows for both of these.
The Board has announced that it will live-stream the meeting at the scheduled time. Members of the public can send in testimony in writing or by phone no later than 24 hours before the meeting. Members of the Board will read summaries of those testimonies.
That is not a public meeting. That is a live TV show.
We have been told that most Board members will be present via phone. That same technology could be used to have members of the public testify via phone. People could submit their numbers by calling in advance or emailing their phone numbers and topics before the meeting. Staff could call them at the appropriate time—before or after voting—and each person could give their own testimony, in full, in their own words. Everyone watching would be able to hear the testimony. In addition, some of the questions and comments sent via email and twitter could be answered during the meeting.
The Chief Financial Officer will be making a presentation on the lump sum budget. Without real-time participation, no one would be able to ask a question about that presentation. Testimony sent in ahead of time could not be amended to include comments or questions about that or any other business taking place during the meeting.
We have also asked that all non-essential Items be withdrawn for now, and that each Item Description include a sentence explaining why it is essential and must be voted on this month. Thanks to the Board for already withdrawing Item 31.
In this difficult time, it is important that the public be able to participate in the democratic process. The Board must make a good faith effort, using the technology available, to include the public in this week’s public meeting. We appreciate being part of the conversation. We look forward to your response.