Arbitrary Changes to Speaker Policy

Testimony of Diane Payne to the BOE, February 25, 2021

Welcome to the new Board Members,
I am speaking today – again – about the arbitrary change in speaker policy. This decision, made without public input or even notice and with no Board vote moves much further away from three goals the Board gives lip service to: public engagement, transparency, and rebuilding of trust. The harm resulting from these changes is compounded by the Board’s elimination of the Student Achievement Committee and Finance & Facilities Committee – further reducing committed spaces for the public to be heard by our school’s governing body. Engagement, transparency, and trust are dismantled with these speaker changes. The changes include: reducing speaking time to a breathless 2 minutes from 3 minutes, CAPPING the number of speakers, and increasing the deadline submission for written testimony. It should be noted that these arbitrary changes reverse decades of precedence that even the SRC adhered to.
Board meetings are where governance occurs. The PA Sunshine Act protects citizens right to participate in their government. Other efforts to engage the public should not be conflated with public meetings where the Board conducts its governmental business. This shutting out of the public has been decried by advocates, students, staff, elected officials, the ACLU, and the Education Law Center still the Board stubbornly opposes all efforts to roll back these changes.
I am asking each Board member to reflect on the following questions:
With this action, are you, as a Board, modeling the engagement you profess to embrace?
Was this decision made in full public view?
Are you as a Board modeling listening?
Is this decision consistent with building public trust?
Are you truly adhering to either the letter and/or spirit of Sunshine Act?
The only thing this speaker change reflects is the Board’s desire to control. That will not prove fruitful in any long-range efforts to improve the district.