Manchester school board approves public comment policy
The Board of School Committee adopted rules at its inaugural session Tuesday that bar “personal complaints of school personnel or complaints against any person connected with the district,” during the public comment period at the beginning of meetings.
The board had conducted its meetings based on a collection of rules that were often scarcely enforced or understood.
The rule states: “Speakers may offer comments on school operations and programs that concern them. In public session, however, the Board shall not hear personal complaints of school personnel or complaints against any person connected with the District. Other channels are provided for Board consideration and disposition of legitimate complaints involving individuals, which should be referred to the Superintendent.”
“If we’re going to gag the public then we should gag our press people there who have a good time beating on some of us,” said school board member Art Beaudry, Ward 9, who was critical of many of the proposed rule changes. “To me, if a member of the public wants to come and speak, as long as they’re respectful and not using vulgarities, that should be their right.”
“The way I read this, it seems some people would not be allowed to come and make a complaint about a principal,” he said. “I think this isn’t about taking our names out of the paper.”
Asked during the debate Tuesday if the language concerning “any person connected to the district” included the school board, of which the mayor is a member, Wihby replied, “It includes everybody.”
Mayor Ted Gatsas, who serves as the chairman of the school board and is responsible for conducting the meetings, also had misgivings about the rule, and he abstained on the vote to remove it.
The reference for the board’s original 2002 policy on public comments is the New Hampshire School Board Association, which provides model policies for numerous school boards around the state.