Athens school board members admit need to foster public input
By Holly Hollman
ATHENS — School board members admitted Thursday that they can do more to encourage public input.
The Athens City Board of Education underwent a self-evaluation and received the results from Susan Salter with the Alabama Association of School Boards.
A recurring concern was whether the board is doing enough to get public input and keep the public informed.
“We have built a wall between the citizens and the board,” one unnamed member wrote on the evaluation.
Public input limited
Another member wrote that there is public input during budget hearings but no opportunity for the public to raise issues when it still is possible to change the budget.
Board President Richard Brown said the policy regarding board meetings and public input is rigid. To get on the agenda, a person must make a request four days before the meeting.
The public can only address items on the agenda.
Board member Russell Johnson suggested allowing citizens to sign up to speak on a topic prior to the meeting’s start and giving each person a two-minute time limit.
Salter cautioned the board that such a procedure could result in an angry parent publicly criticizing a teacher by name.
Board member Sabrina Holt said citizens often feel intimidated because they are unsure of the process regarding public input.
Salter suggested that the board prepare brochures or handouts for the public explaining what the procedures are for addressing the board.
Other areas the board wants to address are setting yearly goals and having more discussions on academic achievement.
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