The issue of the accepted way
for patrons to communicate with the North Platte
School Board was a topic of interest at the board's
regular monthly meeting last Wednesday night.
Several residents who have formed
a new organization called Partners for Education
were present. Their goals include enhancing and
encouraging communication between the community
and the school board. The group has more than
10 active members. Community members who are interested
are invited to participate. The Partners for Education
hope to assist the board by using the communitys
input, and they began this process at Wednesdays
The boards policy states
that anyone wanting to make a public comment before
the board, whether a resident, parent, or student,
must contact the superintendents office
six days prior to the meeting so their name can
be placed on the evenings agenda. This policy
has been used since May 2004.
Many other school boards operate
where anyone can attend the meeting and simply
fill out a comment card when they arrive which
states their topic to be discussed. But North
Platte has chosen to go what critics feel is a
less friendly route.
If a resident has not called and
requested to be placed on the agenda six days
before the meeting, the board will not recognize
the individual and they do not have the opportunity
to be heard.
This fact has upset the Partners
for Education, who feels this policy is not user
-friendly and can be problematic when an individual
misses the six day deadline and is forced to wait
until the boards next meeting a month away.
They feel this policy is convenient for the board
members, but not for the patrons who voted them
Many of the board members
campaigned on how important communication is,
said Cindy Rinehart, who is a patron of the school
district, former school board member, and member
of Partners for Education.
We are not here to ask for
an open forum, but instead the opportunity to
be heard. It's just common courtesy. Much of the
public has not been informed of the policy in
place and dont know about it. Its
too easy for the board to require individuals
to be placed on the agenda, rather than taking
the time to listen to their concerns.
Community members that I
have spoken with inside and outside the district
are appalled at this policy, Rinehart stated.
She said in her opinion there is no logical reason
the board should require the placement on the
agenda. A local attorney she contacted did not
feel as though this was a viable reason for the
The Partners for Education suggested
the use of comment cards being provided for patrons
to hand to the board at the beginning of the meeting,
stating what issue the resident wants to discuss.
The group is not suggesting to remove the current
agenda's requirements, but offering an additional
option by using the comment cards. The group feels
changing this policy will help improve public
relations at the same time improving communications.
The superintendent, Dr. Francis
Moran, said he feels the policy currently in place
where the patron must be on the agenda to speak
is the best way. He suggested the board members
can visit with the patrons in the community to
learn if a miscommunication has taken place.
If this policy needs to
be looked at, we will do so, said Moran.
I believe there are some issues which should
not be discussed publicly, one of these being
personnel issues. Privacy issues are important
and I cannot undo the damage of words spoken.
While this policy was being questioned,
board member Mike Fisher said he has never heard
of any type of board meeting being held where
comment cards are used.
Ive been on this board
for less than a year, and I never knew this was
an option. Im familiar with the town of
North Kansas City and they have the same policy
we do where patrons must be on the agenda and
the meetings run very smoothly.
This policy in question states
that Any member of the public who wishes
to have an item placed on the agenda will present
the request in writing to the superintendent.
The request should be permitted pursuant to Board
Policy and received six days prior to the scheduled
meeting. This request should also include detailed
background information, the item will then be
appropriately placed on the agenda.
Moran said this policy has been
used since the date it was enacted, whether patrons
were aware of it or not.
Not many people come to
our board meetings and if they had called me to
be placed on the agenda, then they would have
had this policy explained to them, Manor
The policy for Platte County R-3s
School Board meeting involves the use of both
comment cards or calling ahead to be placed on
the agenda. By choosing this route, Superintendent
Mark Harpst said it is easy for residents to choose
the option which works best for them.
Our policy states patrons
can use either route to communicate with the board.
We recommend they go through the proper administrative
channels first, which includes bringing the issue
or questions to their teacher or principal,
By going through these channels,
it makes sure the residents issue is something
the board is responsible for. But people can still
come in the meetings and fill out a comment card
stating their name and topic to be discussed.
The purpose of this is so the board knows who
they are and is made aware of what issue they
are bringing to the table. Using these types of
cards is pretty typical for how boards operate.