San Dieguito School Board changes rules for public comments

ENCINITAS – The San Dieguito Union School District, which operates with a fully staffed board for the first time since June, recently changed the way the public can contribute to public debate at school board meetings.

At a November 18 meeting, the first for newly elected director Julie Bronstein, the board approved new rules regarding public comment periods.

Previously, the public was allowed to register to comment on each individual agenda item, being given a maximum of two minutes to speak per item. However, the board of directors unanimously approved new rules that allow members of the public to speak once on the action to be taken for up to two minutes.

Speakers will still be allowed to provide comments on non-agenda items and the consent timeline of the meeting.

“The purpose of advancing this agenda item was to enable effective and efficient management of our meetings,” said Superintendent Dr. Cheryl James-Ward.

Recently, meetings in the San Dieguito School District have fallen behind schedule, including this week, which lasted more than nine hours.

However, public comments on the proposed changes were not receptive to the idea.

“At the very least, it should be possible to submit written comments for council members to review before meetings,” said Marina Fleming, a parent in the district. “Written comments should then be posted so that there is a public record.”

Many cities, such as Encinitas, Del Mar and others in North County, post their written public comments on agenda items at their respective city council meetings. Director Michael Allman said the board decided to release public comments, but were strongly against doing it again.

“It turned into ad hominem attacks – ugly, ugly, ugly,” Allman said.

The topics the district has dealt with over the past two years have been controversial among families, teachers and board members, particularly regarding the return to school during the pandemic and the protocols surrounding COVID-19.

Additionally, board chairman Mo Muir said meetings were taking too long and often people who signed up to comment on a later item did not respond when their name was called in the Zoom meeting. .

“Our meetings last a long time. And I call these names and no one is there, ”Muir said.

Moving all audience comments to the items closer to the start of the meeting will allow the audience to express their thoughts on the action items without going through a six-hour (or longer) meeting. However, public comments on the points are not the only factor in long meetings.

“Using today’s meeting as an example, public comment isn’t what made this meeting so long,” Fleming said. “If school board members truly value the public’s contribution as they continually say, then they need to put that sentiment into action. “

During the meeting, parents also expressed their feelings on a variety of topics outside of public commentary, including holding virtual town halls on specific controversial issues facing the district.

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