When reviewing policy, think it all the way through
The Williamsport Area School Board plans to revisit its public comment policy to consider widening the net of stakeholders who may address the board prior to a vote on important matters.
As it stands, the policy considers stakeholders to be district residents and taxpayers. But shouldn’t it include others impacted by board action, such as employees who live outside of the district or grandparents of children living in the district?
That’s what board member Adam Welteroth seeks to consider.
“It would be wrong to stifle the voice of others whom we affect with the decisions we make with the governance of the district,” he said at a recent board meeting.
That’s a point worth considering.
As it stands, the district policy lives up to the letter of the state Sunshine Law, which governs public access to public agencies.
The law specifically states that public agencies are required to provide opportunity for comment for residents and taxpayers of the jurisdiction. But it also says, “The board or council has the option to accept all public comment at the beginning of the meeting.”
As we see it, that opens the door for an outside group with a vested interest to approach the board and seek permission to speak.
We agree that there are occasions when people other than taxpayers and residents have a personal stake in matters that go before the board. But should the board revise its policy to open the door to a wider group on an ongoing basis?
We believe it’s important to think it all the way through, including the current climate and also with consideration for the future.
We will always advocate for the voices of the people to be heard, just as we will also stand with the board when it comes time for the board to conduct its business “in an orderly and efficient manner,” as stated in the board policy on public comment.
And that’s key. It is essential that the board, while hearing from constituents, maintain the ability to handle the business of the people — in this case, the public schools.