2015 ICCSD Candidate Positions on Comment by Public at Board Meeting at Time of Specific Agenda Items

At its June 23, 2015, meeting, the current Iowa City Community School District (ICCSD) board (with the exception of Tuyet Baruah who voted nay) voted in favor of a new controversial Community Comment policy that does not permit the public to speak before the board at the time of specific board meeting agenda items. See more about this here.

With only two of the board members returning who voted in favor of this new Community Comment policy, where do the current ICCSD board candidates stand on the issue of whether community members should be permitted to speak to the school board at the time of a specific agenda item?

Dr. Hani Elkadi hosted a recent forum for board candidates sponsored by PATV and addressed this issue–his specific statement was Allowing community members to speak to agenda items during board meeting.  (See here to watch the forum.) Dr. Elkadi  asked candidates if 1) they agreed with the statement, 2) thought the issue was on the table for revisiting, or 3) would state no.  See below for candidate responses (you will need to scroll down).  Given that the ICCSD board may have contested issues like closing a school, passing a bond resolution, budget cuts to programs, etc. come before it, permitting the public to comment at the time of the specific agenda item seems vital to informed decision making.

 

ICCSD Board Candidate

Yes Would Revisit Issue or Entertain Further Discussion Absolute No
Todd Fanning     No
Jason Lewis   Further discussion  
Brianna Wills     No
Lori Roetlin     No
Brian Richman Yes    
Megan Schwalm   Yes, need to revisit our new practice on when we allow community members to speak.  
Paul Roeschler     No
Chris Liebig   Unlimited comment at beginning of meeting. If not, at agenda.  
LaTasha DeLoach   Think about it. Thinks it’s important to think about it.  
Sean Eyestone   [Like LaTasha DeLoach] I would also say I have to think about it with some more information.  
Phil Hemingway Absolutely yes allow it. We’re a free and democratic society.    
Lucas Van Orden Yes, subject to a level of decorum.    
Tom Yates Yes, subject to a level of decorum.
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11 Responses to 2015 ICCSD Candidate Positions on Comment by Public at Board Meeting at Time of Specific Agenda Items

  1. Chris Liebig says:

    Thanks, Mary. Just to clarify: When I said “unlimited comment at the beginning of the meeting,” I meant that the board should not limit the number of speakers who can speak at the community comment portion of the meetings, as they now do under the new policy. I’m not against limiting the time that any one person can speak, but I think four minutes total per person is too short. My preference would be to allow each speaker three minutes, after which, if they had more to talk about, they could get back in line and speak a second or third time. Very few people would choose to speak more than once in any event.

    I have mixed feelings about bringing back comment on individual agenda items throughout the meeting. I see the value of it, and I’m not particularly bothered by it, but I do think it’s reasonable to put some limit on the total number of minutes one person can speak during any one meeting, and it might be hard to do that while allowing comment on multiple agenda items at different points during the meeting. But if there’s a workable way to do that, then I’m fine with it.

    The one thing I do like about the new policy is that it allows people to speak during community comment even if they want to speak on agenda items. Many people would prefer to have their say and be done early in the meeting, rather than wait (sometimes hours) for their agenda item to come up before they can comment.

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    • Mary says:

      Thanks for the clarification Chris!

      Perhaps one reasonable alternative might be for the next group of board members to permit people to speak about both agenda and non-agenda items during a Community Comment period at the beginning of the board meeting and also on agenda items at the time of the specific agenda item (before it is voted upon). This would permit folks who may still be at work or running kids around when the board meeting starts to still comment on agenda items.

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  2. Pingback: One-stop Shopping for the 2015 ICCSD School Board Election | Education in Iowa

  3. Well, certainly makes it easy to entirely rule out voting for Fanning, Wills, Roetlin and Roessler then. I would no longer expect them to be anything less than Murley’s handpuppets. The need for comment and the amount of comment has increased directly proportionate to the administration and board’s lack of transparency with poor decisions that might appear to be made long before there is any discussion at the board table. Fixing the problem with transparency and the lack thereof would likely, more than likely, entirely reduce public comment past community comment at the beginning of the meeting. Fix the problem not the symptoms. Concerns about all but Hemingway, Richman, and Schwalm just grew exponentially as well.

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    • Mary says:

      Thanks for the comment Julie. Chris Liebig did clarify his response in a comment here, and he would not limit the number of speakers at community comment time. To be fair, with thirteen candidates running and participating in a forum, there was not a lot of time for each to expound on their statements.

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  4. There are important reasons I can see why no longer allowing comment during agenda items is problematic:

    1) The Superintendent delivers his state of the onion address at the beginning of the board meeting without detail provided in the agenda.
    -I understand that detail may not be provided to allow him flexibility to be up to the minute about happenings district but, that means that issues he might suddenly come to light (with less than 24 hours notice to be added to the agenda per Iowa Open Meeting law) might bump concerns prepared by a speaker for the community comment allotment of time with no opportunity to be voiced later in the agenda on a relevant item so as to consider on the fly just before community comment that follows shortly after the superintendent state of the onion.

    2) The district often does not include reports and/or attachments on and agenda item in the online agenda available to the public prior to the meeting. The administration then unveils and presents these reports/attachments well after community comment at the beginning of the meeting is over . It seems to me this happens on more controversial items that people would WANT to know the details of before speaking…i.e., special ed attachments from a couple meetings back that were presented by Carmen Dixon during the meeting.
    -Without access to the details, conclusions, information, recommendations and such in the reports, how would a community member possibly assess or determine whether they should speak about their concern or not?
    -How could a community member even know enough about the information that will be presented to the board just before they vote to be able to state their feedback, whether pro or con, very accurately…it is essentially driving blind.
    -If reports were always provided in the agenda in advance, transparently out in the open, questions and concerns might actually be answered for them in those materials and might even negate a need for pre-agenda item concerns to be discussed during community comment at the beginning of the meeting.
    -If there is a very good reason a particular report should not be provided in advance, allowing agenda item comment back on the menu would at least provide community members the opportunity to comment on the information without having to wait two or more weeks to do so and coming as a criticism if by then well after a vote on which it might have made a difference.

    3) The administration is not providing equal access to information. Some individuals get private meetings with the superintendent and administrators while others do not, some get their phone calls and emails returned while others do not. Stakeholders who do not get to ask questions, nor have their questions answered through other venues have little choice left but to address them during community comment or agenda item comment. This is a situation that has been created by the administration. Simple, reasonable questions asked of the administration are often responded to with a demand that the individual file an open records request. Doing what the administration might portray as too many of those can then be turned into a personal attack on the individual simply trying to get a reasonable question answered i.e., what places does the district post a policy; may I please see the comment slips I submitted this evening; who is the district contact for this topic…almost every question asked could so easily become a game of cat and mouse played by the administrators when they might appear to be trying to keep public information from an individual/s with the prime example being the Stone/Gurwell lawsuit over open records which the district LOST, had to provide the information, and apologized for:

    http://www.thonline.com/news/iowa-illinois-wisconsin/article_e0dac49f-aadc-5d27-a723-1bff4d82563f.html
    “Parent, former school official sue district over records
    IOWA CITY — A parent and a former employee are suing the Iowa City School District, claiming it violated Iowa’s open-records law.

    The lawsuit by parent Edwin Stone and David Gurwell, a former assistant physical plant director, said the district failed to provide public records about construction projects dating back to August 2009.

    Stone said the records involve a geothermal heating and cooling system installed at City High in 2005. Stone is concerned about drainage problems. He said he’s written to the district dozens of time but hasn’t received a response.”

    Additional information here and here:
    http://www.kcrg.com/news/local/Iowa-City-Community-School-District-Admits-Wrongdoing–141367743.html
    http://www.dailyiowan.com/2012/03/06/Metro/27353.html

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  5. Paul Roesler says:

    Mary,
    To follow up because we weren’t really supposed to comment further then what Hani had allowed us to I wanted to expand my position on this a little further. I think the last few meetings we have seen more discussion amongst the board members on agenda items now that all the comments are done at the beginning. I think there is one part I may look at wanting to change slightly. During agenda items I would like the board to have the option to ask people who spoke to an agenda item questions or engage in a back and forth. This would allow the board to have the interaction with the commenters if needed, which currently is not allowed. The speaker would be allowed at that time if asked to answer clarifying and follow up questions.

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    • Mary says:

      Thank you for your follow up comment Paul.

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      • Said the alleged man who accused me of a noise I never made, allowed me to be crucified for it when witnesses actually facing me when the noise was made from the other side of the room and rows back behind me all agree that I did not make a sound…the same alleged man who sat behind me on the aisle in a board meeting wearing a shirt that said, “Duct tape doesn’t fix stupid but it muffles the sound” after I had quietly protested the very policy this post is about by wearing duct tape over my mouth. That is Mr. Roesler’s version of respecting stakeholder first amendment rights on viewpoints he disagrees with…please feel free to see this candidate doing it in the flesh, as taken during said board meeting…what a winner. Picture of him doing it in the board meeting May 2015 is here:

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  6. Here is the comment candidate Jason Lewis made on FB after he supported the early version of the public comment policy that is the topic of the blog. I spoke that evening…I feel his FB comment was meant to say how much he’d like to shoot me in the face just made barely more palatable by referring to an avatar, gosh, whose avatar was he thinking of? With school shootings happening across the U.S. and children targeted by stalkers, my response was to have done the footwork to get ALICE/VIST into the ICCSD after I talked Murley into letting me get the groundwork setup having told him what a fantastic class it was when I took it at the University and how much better I would feel for the safety of our schools if it was integrated into the ICCSD. I did, and I have the emails and phone records that show I did that footwork which I then handed over to Susie Poulton who is always solely credited for it as if she’d done it all alone…all I would have like to see was a generic reference to the idea and the initial inquiries done by a parent.
    So, that was my take on the seriousness of school district related violence = to help bring about something that might protect kids, staff, and families. Lewis on the other hand, after I spoke at the same meeting on the topic of the public comment policy that evening, just a few minutes after he left the meeting said on his fb page: “2 things I glad I came home to tonight: 1. Playing guitar while daughter sings as we continue to practice for talent show auditions. 2. Video games. Say what you want, but sometimes it nice to know you can spend some time shooting people’s avatars in the face because it would be unseemly to do it to real people.” In fact, he actually posted that twice by accident or poor reflexes. Please notice the 8 likes at the time the screen shot was taken. 8 likes by allegedly fine upstanding citizens including then board president Sally Hoelscher (got a print screen of that too), the rest of you likes might want to think about that.
    For me, I don’t like the idea of having someone on the board who seems to me to have been responding to restricting the First Amendment rights of another stakeholder by what appear to me to have been barely veiled threatening comments about wanting to shoot them in the face but for it being unseemly to do it for real. Sticks and stones dictate that names don’t hurt, but bullets, bullets kill people and are not anything to joke about or use as political allegory. You can see Jason T. Lewis’ opinion on shooting avatars vs. real people in the face here:

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  7. Here is Superintendent Murley, Chace Ramey, and Brian Kirschling on the early version of the policy above…sure goes a long way to tell you about the level of transparency in this district on the board and in the administration…Kirschling and I were both in the meeting where Director Marla Swesey, then board VP still I think, brought the version of the policy referred to in this video to his Policy & Engagement Committee meeting…when first asked, she said, in a deer in the headlights can’t find one’s way out of a paper bag voice that she “thought” it came from Steve…that meeting and her words are recorded and available from the district through an open records request though I usually make my own copies of meeting audios to be sure nothing disappears from them as has actually happened at least once of which I am aware…then later in the meeting, rather out of the blue, she said she wasn’t sure where the policy came from…um, the one she brought hard copies of into the meeting for everyone to review? Duh? Notice Brian Kirschling’s version of the story in this short clip:

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