CONWAY — While an attempt to adopt a public comment policy recommended by the New Hampshire School Board’s Association was defeated by the SAU 9 Board last week, that is not the end of the policy. Local school boards may see it resurface through their own policy committees in the future.
“It will go to the individual policy committee who will make a determination if they want to introduce to the full board as a first reading,” Superintendent Kevin Richard said Tuesday.
Except for Jackson (tinyurl.com/tv8nvdcd), no other school boards in the district have a public comment policy. In Jackson, public comments are limited to two minutes for a person and 15 total minutes on the agenda.
The New Hampshire School Board Association is recommending the following to boards:
“The primary purpose of school board meetings is to conduct the business of the board as it relates to school policies, programs and operations. The board encourages residents to attend board meetings so that they may become acquainted with the operation and programs of the schools. All official meetings of the board shall be open to the press and public. However, the board reserves the right to meet and to adjourn or recess a meeting at any time. The board also reserves the right to enter non-public session at any time, in accordance with the provisions of RSA 91-A:3.
“In order to assure that persons who wish to appear before the board may be heard and, at the same time, sure that the board may conduct its business and meetings properly and efficiently, the board adopts as policy the following procedures and rules pertaining to public participation at board meetings.
“1) The Board will provide a maximum of 15 minutes to hear public comments at the beginning go each regular board meeting. This period may be extended by a majority vote of the board. Additionally, the board may include additional public comment period for specific agenda items with a time limit for public comment specified on the the pertinent agenda.
“2) Individual speakers will be allotted three minutes per person. Speakers may not relinquish their allotted time to another speaker. For specific meetings and/or agenda items, the board may at the outset of the public comment period increase the individual time limit for all speakers.
“3) The chair will recognize speakers on a first come basis.
“4) Speakers shall identify themselves clearly of the record. Any individual wishing to speak shall give their name, address and the group, if any, that is represented.
“5) All speakers are to conduct themselves in a civil manner. Obscene, libelous, defamatory or violent statements shall be considered out of order and shall not be tolerated. The board chair may terminate the speaker’s privilege of address if the speaker does not follow this rule of order.
“6) The board will neither hear personal complaints about school personnel nor complaints regarding any person connected with the school system in public session.
“The board vests in its chair, or other presiding officer, authority to terminate the remarks of any individual when they do not adhere to the rules established above.
“Persons appearing before the board are reminded that members of the board are without authority to act independently as individuals in in official matters. Thus, in most instances, any board response will be deferred pending consideration by the full board.”