Wake County school board members Deborah Prickett and Debra Goldman sounded off today about student assignment and the behavior of the public.
During her board member comments, Prickett said she felt she had to respond to today's "irresponsible" press release from "the small fringe group" Great Schools in Wake Coalition. She argued that GSIW's "Let's Find a Better Way" campaign failed to acknowledge that a catalyst for the new student assignment plan was how parents were fed up with the "archaic node assignment system."
"We’ve gone from a controlling do as I say system to families having a choice," Prickett said.
During her comments, Goldman said she wanted to address the "disrespectful" tenor of speakers at the last school board meeting. She asked board chairman Kevin Hill to exercise more control to make sure speakers adhere to the comment policy.
Goldman said she also wanted to make sure the board wasn't spending it's time changing the directives made over the past few years. She said it was causing parents to be confused about the direction of the school system.
Karen Carter, one of the speakers at the meeting tonight, raised the same points about the behavior at the March 27 meeting. Here's a copy of the email she sent after the last board meeting to Hill:
Dear Mr. Hill,
I attended the March 27th Board Meeting. I was overwhelmed by the overall conduct of several people present. I have not been to any Board of Education meeting before and after the meeting last night, I am not sure when I will attend again. It was an atmosphere of hostility and disrespect. There were numerous disruptions and interruptions by those in the audience. Some examples are as follows:
When Debra Goldman offered up a prayer, several members in the audience loudly said oh my god and moaned all while the prayer was being said.
During public comments Amy Lee directed personal insults and attack at Mr. Tata when she stated, "Liar, liar pants on fire. Mr. Tata are your pants on fire? From the public's perspective, your pants are on raging fire."
Throughout the entire Board Meeting up until the last public agenda item, there was so many distractingly loud moans, sighs, "Oh my God!", and "What?" when certain board members tried to speak. It did not matter what they were speaking on.
At one point when Debra Goldman was speaking, someone from the audience, yelled out, "Why don't you offer up a prayer?"
This type of behavior being tolerated is quite concerning to me and appears to encourage an atmosphere at the Board of Education meetings that discourages participation from the general public due to the interruptions and hostile environment.
After reviewing Board Policy, I have found several policies that were out of compliance last night:
According to Policy 1323 Rules of Order Section B. Role of the Chair
"4. Determine whether a speaker has gone beyond reasonable standards of courtesy in her/his remarks and to entertain and rule on objections from other members on this ground."
According to Policy 1326 Public Participation at Board Meetings
"14. Speakers are welcome to offer comments or criticism directed at substantive ideas, actions or procedures of the Board, individual Board members, or staff. In the interest of maintaining civility and decorum, however, speakers are encouraged to refrain from personal attacks and insults directed at the Board, individual Board members, staff, or members of the general public."
"16. Any person who interrupts, disturbs, or disrupts the Board meeting may be directed to leave the premises by the Board Chair."
"17. Members of the audience should show respect for each speaker by refraining from loud comments or other disruptions."
According to Policy 1330 Disruptions of Meetings
"Persons, who willfully interrupt, disrupt, or cause disturbances at an official meeting of the board may be directed to leave by the presiding officer. If any such person refuses to leave after being directed to do so, pursuant to General Statute 143-318.17, he or she is guilty of a misdemeanor."
Clearly the specific list of the actions displayed by some at the meeting last night violated the above policies. I ask that at future meetings, these policies be applied so that anyone from the public may attend and not feel threatened by the behavior being displayed. Could you please let me know how you as the Chair will address these issues if they should arise again?
Thank you for you assistance with this matter.