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School board planning changes to rules for public comment at meetings

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By Daniel Laverty

The Jeffco Board of Education agreed to change the rules for public comment at meetings at its Saturday retreat. 

To be approved at a future meeting, the new system would allow for up to 20 people to speak for three minutes each. If 21 to 30 people sign up, two minutes each would be allowed. If 31 to 60 people sign up, one minute per person would be allowed.

If more than 60 people sign up to speak about agenda-related items, they will be invited to speak during the second portion of public comment, after the board has taken action on its agenda.

The former policy allowed for speakers to have three minutes regardless of how many signed up. Groups of three or more could sign up and were given 10 minutes. The board didn’t address how its new policy would affect groups, but board President Ken Witt and board member Lesley Dahlkemper both said it would be discussed at the board’s next meeting.

The former policy on public comment will still apply to the board’s next regular business meeting Aug. 28.

Lengthy public comment often has led to the board discussing issues and making decisions after 9 p.m. Hundreds of parents, teachers and community members have shown up to fill public comment with mostly criticism for the board’s decisions the past six months, including hiring a board attorney, increasing funding for charter schools and not increasing funding for free full-day kindergarten.

“It’s important … that we get to our business, but, at the same time, we were elected to listen,” said board member Jill Fellman. “I really like listening to folks about the decisions we’re about to make.

“I’m good with shrinking the amount of time,” Fellman added. “But we need to be really conscious about listening to (public comment) on (agenda) items.”

Board member John Newkirk agreed.

“We need to be able to make decisions with clear minds,” Newkirk said of the late meetings. “I’ve even thought about having public comment the night before a meeting.”

The board unanimously agreed on the new policy and is expected to approve it at a future meeting. 

The next Jeffco Board of Education meeting is at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 28 at the Education Center, 1829 Denver West Drive in Golden.

For more information, visit www.jeffcopublicschools.org.

Contact Daniel Laverty at 303-350-1042 or Daniel@evergreenco.com.