School Board considers a change to its Public Participation policy

By Brett Nachtigall


HOT SPRINGS – The number of people allowed to speak on the same topic during Public Participation at Hot Springs School Board regular meetings may be changing, following action taken by the board at their October meeting this past Monday night.

The First Reading of a policy change labeled BDDH (KD) Public Participation was passed unanimously near the end of the Oct. 8 meeting, and will now move on to a Second Reading at the Nov. 12 meeting, where it could then become official new policy.

The change to the current policy would read as follows:

“If after filling out Requests to Address the Governing Board Form it is determined (by the board president) that if there are more than five people desiring to speak about the same item either on the agenda or an item not on the agenda, those who have filled out a request will be asked to select no more than five individuals to address the board.”

After the original motion was seconded, a discussion amongst all of the board members and Superintendent Kevin Coles ensued where Board President Kim Henningsen said the policy change was recommended by the Associated School Boards of South Dakota who said local school boards often put themselves through more trouble than what is necessary when controversial topics come up.

Henningsen told the other members of the board that the ASDSD said that rather than prolonging public business meetings by “hearing from 40 people who are saying the same thing,” that they should instead require groups of the public to self-appoint representatives to speak on behalf of the entire group. 

“This is not an attempt to keep people from telling us what they think,” Henningsen said. Everyone can still contact board members by phone, email or in person, he added, while also saying the policy change would only apply to regular board meetings and not any public forums to discuss specific issues.

When it was brought up that it may sometimes be difficult for the public to nominate their five speakers when they themselves may not be familiar enough with one another when they come to meetings to know what the others may be there to say, it was suggested that perhaps Public Participation could be delayed slightly to allow for the public to get together and then appoint their speakers. 

Superintendent Coles also recommended that it would be the Board President’s job to take each of the Public Participation forms submitted at each meeting and then organize them based on their topic. If and when there is more than five submitted that pertain to the same topic, those individuals could then be told to discuss amongst themselves who would speak.

Following the board’s unanimous approval of the first reading, Henningsen asked the board members to review how the policy now reads and then come back to the next meeting with any additional thoughts or changes, or to be prepared to approve its second reading and make it policy.

Also during this past Monday night’s meeting, the board:

• Approved the Classified Staff Agreement for SY2018, which includes a .25 cent per hour raise for all staff.

• Approved the Annual Financial Report, after hearing it described to them by Business Manager Deb Ollerich, who said that she thanked everyone for working so hard to cut expenses, which resulted in a very positive looking financial outlook for the coming year.

• Heard from Supt. Coles who said the official enrollment count as it pertains to state aid was made on Thursday, Sept. 27, which showed a total of 763 students in the district. Last year there were 776, so enrollment numbers did go down a total of 13 students. Business Manager Ollerich said she had done budgeting this year by anticipating a drop of 10 students – to 766 – so projections were only off slightly.

• Heard from Activities Director John Fitzgerald who said, based on enrollment numbers for boys in the high school, there is a good chance that the school’s football team will move to the Crazy Horse Division of the Black Hills Conference, which is made up of Class 11B schools. This may also be an indicator that the football program itself will then move to 11B for at least the next two seasons. Fitzgerald said Football Coach Ben Kramer expects 20 to 25 boys to go out for high school football next year. The number of boys in the high school next year, based on last week’s enrollment count, totals of 97 boys. The cutoff to remain in higher Class 11A is 100 boys.

Fall River County Herald Star

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