Is the Wake County school board being prudent or overreacting with all the additional security measures in place for today's meeting?
As noted in today's article, new measures in place are more than just requiring people to have tickets to be inside the board meeting room and excluding the public from the meeting room for the work sessions. You've also got extra police officers for today and physical barriers being erected to prevent people from waling up to board members in the board room.
"We've had concerns raised by our security department," said school board chairman Ron Margiotta. "We're following their recommendations."
But Yevonne Brannon, chairwoman of the Great Schools in Wake Coalition, was livid about the changes.
"It's so sad," Brannon said of the new measures. "This is not necesssary. This really is unfair."
Brannon said it's unfair to working people to have to get there as early as 10:30 a.m. to get a ticket. She argued that the current system was working with security not letting people in when it got too crowded.
But Margiotta and Michael Evans, Wake's chief communications officer, said the Raleigh fire marshal raised concerns about the crowd blocking safe access out of the board room. That's why people won't be allowed to stand against the walls or in the aisles in the main board room.
People will also be required to leave enough space in the hallways leading outside the board room instead of bunching together.
This effectively reduces the amount of people who can be inside the room or close enough in the halls to hear what's going on.
But Margiotta said the tickets will help allow people to leave the room to use the restroom without worrying about not being allowed back inside.
Brannon is also fuming about media and staff only being allowed inside the board conference room for the budget work session and the committee of the whole meeting.The public will be able to watch a video and audio feed from the main board room.
Evans said the fire marshal was comfortable with limiting access to the work sessions. Evans said crowds at recent work sessions had stretched into the hall outside the conference room, blocking up the exits.
The COW meetings are normally held in the conference room. But the COW meeting was moved to the main board room on March 2.
Brannon said the work sessions should have stayed in the main board room.
School board vice chairwoman Debra Goldman said staff had asked for the budget and COW sessions to be in the conference room because of the long agenda. She said it made for a more intimate meeting.
"Intimacy isn't the goal," Brannon said.
If crowding was such an issue, then Brannon said the meeting should have been relocated to a larger venue such as a high school auditorium.
Margiotta said they might move future meetings if the crowds remain this large.
Now we come to the barriers that will be erected in front of the dais where the board members sit in the main board room. You won't be able to walk up to the board table any longer. Board members will have to leave the dais to speak with people.
Goldman said the barriers were put up in the main board room for crowd control and to safeguard the confidential documents that board members have at their seats.
You'll also see four armed law enforcement officers at all times at the meeting. That's up from two at the March 2 meeting.
Police and sheriff's deputies weren't normally at board meetings before December. They were sometimes at reassignment public hearings for the old board.
Security in general has been increasing around board members.
Security officers now walk board members to their vehicles. Margiotta said that was implemented after one of the new members was accosted by a member of the public.
School board chairman Ron Margiotta decided today to keep holding the budget work session and committee of the whole meeting in the board conference room rather than moving it into the main board room.
The four minority members said they'd prefer to meet in the larger main board room. But majority members said they were already set to go in the conference room.
Margiota said hed be the "bad guy" and keep the meetings in the conference room. He said it's easier to hold the work sessions in the conference room.
Margiotta pointed out that the public, which isn't allowed inside the conference room, can watch it in the main board room via a video feed.