PARKER – Rich Robbins was elected Tuesday by the Douglas County School Board to replace former board director Justin Williams who resigned in January. After being sworn in, Robbins and the board of directors hammered out a new public comment policy.
“The strategic vision of this district focuses on choice, world class education, district performance and safety,” said Robbins. “I am ready to step up and be a team member of this governing body.”
Robbins, one of six finalists interviewed individually during the board meeting, said he strongly supports the school district’s Choice Scholarship Program, pay for performance policy to reward excellent teachers and motivate others to improve, increased security and public communication.
The role of the school board is to set policies to guide – not micromanage – district Superintendent Elizabeth Fagen, said Robbins, a 20-year military veteran who likened Fagen to a commander.
Over the past 10 years, Robbins has served on the District Accountability Committee and school accountability committees at Pine Lane Intermediate, Sierra Middle School and Chaparral High School.
The meeting’s public comment period was punctuated with critics voicing complaints and name calling – behavior that was applauded by their peers in the audience. These outbursts will be curbed, if not eliminated, at future school board meetings when the new public comment policy goes into effect.
According to the drafted policy guidelines, “Members of the public shall refrain from public outbursts, applause, hissing, booing, or expressions of support or disapproval of any speaker’s comments. Name-calling, abusive, obscene, profane, slanderous or threatening language or gestures and any interruption of board members, staff or speakers who have been recognized by the president, are prohibited.”
The new policy for public participation at board meetings was discussed, amended and passed Tuesday, however, board Directors Judith Reynolds and Meghann Silverthorn opposed setting time limits for public input.
The policy will be published this week and apply to official school board meetings – it does not extend to informal public outreach programs such as the “board unplugged” events. The board will review the effectiveness of the policy this summer.
Unlike past meetings, the policy encourages public comments and questions on each meeting agenda item, including those listed on the consent calendar.
Each person will be granted three minutes to comment on an agenda action item. The board president or presiding director will have discretion to expand or reduce the allotted time based on the number of speakers and lateness of the hour.
Proponents hope the policy of issue-focused comments will provide relevant public information and opinions for the board to consider.
The generic public comment period will be moved to the end of the meeting and be limited to a total of five minutes unless the board chairman decides to extend the time. The board encouraged public participants to put their comments, suggestions or requests in writing so that they may be further studied or added to the next meeting agenda.
The policy allows anyone to speak on the meeting agenda items and during the allotted public comment time when specifically recognized by the board president. Each speaker is required to sign up by 3 p.m. on the date of the meeting and identify the issue that they wish to discuss.
“In accordance with state law, the presiding officer is authorized to cause the removal of any and all persons violating the provisions of these rules,” states the policy guidelines.