Greenfield School Committee considers revisions to public comment policy 

Staff Writer
Published: 10/14/2021 4:43:01 PM

GREENFIELD — Several residents spoke Wednesday night in support of proposed revisions to the School Committee’s policy for public comment, namely a change that expands comments allowed to focus beyond the scope of items on the agenda.

Some other major revision changes include granting the chair the ability to extend the public comment segment by an additional 15 minutes; and clarifying in the policy that public comment is not a dialogue, but rather an opportunity for an individual to express an idea or opinion.

After a discussion by School Committee members, the revised policy passed unanimously as a first reading. It will be read again and voted on at the committee’s November meeting.

Resident Kathryn Martini, who is running for a seat on the School Committee in the Nov. 2 election, told committee members during the public comment segment of Wednesday’s meeting that she thinks the current policy is “overly restrictive and undemocratic,” and encouraged committee members to support the revised policy.

“As a parent, there are issues that I would like to be able to bring to the committee’s attention and to the attention of those who follow the committee’s meetings, but that’s impossible under a policy that suppresses speech under anything that is not already on the committee’s agenda,” Martini said.

Resident Susan Worgaftik also spoke in support of the revised policy, arguing that allowing public comment to extend beyond the scope of an agenda is a “vital change.” She said this would offer committee members the chance to hear what the issues are in the community and address those issues, rather than let them “sit and fester.”

“That’s what I’m hoping public comment will do — give people the opportunity to say something so you know about it, you can deal with it, and you can make the appropriate arrangements or investigation,” Worgaftik told committee members.

School Committee member Glenn Johnson-Mussad, chair of the Policy and Program Subcommittee, explained that following a request by the School Committee for the subcommittee to review the policy, he was advised at a Massachusetts Association of School Committees (MASC) meeting that all school committees should be reviewing their public comment policies.

Johnson-Mussad said the revised policy largely models MASC’s updated policy on public comment.

“It sounds like, from the public comment tonight, there’s support and interest in it from the community,” Johnson-Mussad said.

Referencing a line in the revised policy that limits public comment to topics within the purview and authority of the School Committee, Mayor Roxann Wedegartner said she wanted to remind people that there are a “whole lot of things not in the School Committee’s authority.”

Committee members agreed it could be included with each agenda what does, in fact, fall within the authority of the committee. Primarily, that includes the review and approval of the budget of the district’s public schools, the performance of the superintendent, and the educational goals and policies of the district’s schools.

“I think many groups understand what’s not on the agenda is sometimes as important as what’s on the agenda,” Johnson-Mussad said.

Resident Elizabeth Deneeve, also one of five candidates running for three open School Committee seats in the Nov. 2 election, echoed the comments of others during the public comment segment, but also added that she feels parents often express concerns that are never added to future agendas.

“Why should people bother to come here and interact with the committee if they feel it’s a waste of their time?” she asked. “You might feel as though the community has ample opportunity to express themselves, but what is the point if it isn’t taken under advisement?”

A copy of the revised policy can be found on the School Committee’s page (filed under meeting materials for the Oct. 13 meeting) on the district’s website at bit.ly/3azUsXT.

Reporter Mary Byrne can be reached at mbyrne@recorder.com or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne




Greenfield Recorder

14 Hope Street
Greenfield, MA 01302-1367
Phone: (413) 772-0261
Fax: (413) 772-2906

 

Copyright © 2021 by Newspapers of Massachusetts, Inc.
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy