Kennett school board: Who should be allowed to voice opinions at meetings?

This article can be found published on the Daily Local News‘ website and the Southern Chester County Weeklies‘ website.
(Candice Monhollan)

(Candice Monhollan)

KENNETT SQUARE – In preparation for the new school year, the Kennett Consolidated school board has been reviewing its policies and making changes and updates when necessary.

Four second readings were approved and adopted as the new policy, but one came with much debate, not only amongst the board, but a member of the public as well.

Policy 903, otherwise known as the Public Participation in Regular Board Meetings, says that only a resident or taxpayer of the district, a district employee or student are allowed to comment during the allotted time at the beginning of meetings.

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Furthermore, any individual who falls under that category must register their intent to speak with the Superintendent’s office by noon on the Friday before the meeting.

“The state of Pennsylvania is a commonwealth state, and that means all the money coming in — tax dollars — is distributed equally throughout its citizens,” said Rudy Alfonso, a member of the board.

Alfonso, in disagreement with the a paragraph in the policy which states participants need to be district residents or tax payers or a district employee or student.

Instead, Alfonso asked the board to consider changing it to say residents or income tax payers of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, a district employee or spouse of a district employee or any parent that may reside outside of the state.

For example, if a parent lives in Delaware and has a child attending the Kennett school district, they should have the right to speak on behalf of what may be happening with their child.

“As far as any taxpayer in Pennsylvania, I’ll have to respectfully disagree with that,” said Michael Finnegan, also a member of the board. “I’m not going to go sit at West Chester or Mifflinburg and get on their agenda to talk about something that they’re doing.”

Alfonso did some research on the topic and found that 10 of the 12 districts in Chester County allow people from any part of the state to voice their opinions.

Nine of those 12 also don’t require a three-day registration, and instead have a piece of paper on the podium the night of the meeting for the public to sign up to speak.

“If we stay with the way it’s written, we’ll be in the minority in Chester County,” Alfonso said.

Board President Heather Schaen was also in disagreement with Alfonso.

“I don’t think we’ve ever had a problem with (being in the minority),” she said. “I think if we open it up to anybody in the state to come speak at our meeting, you could open yourself up to anybody’s political agenda to come and speak about any topic.”

In regards to registering in advance, Schaen felt that having the ability to research the topic beforehand allows the board to have a more thoughtful discussion rather than telling the speaker they will have to look into it and requiring them to come back next time.

The back-and-forth went on for over half an hour and though the board never reached a full agreement, they did make a change to the participants to include all legal guardians of district students, regardless of where they live.

The rest of the language remained the same.

The policy was approved and adopted with an 8-1 vote. Alfonso was the only board member to oppose.

In other news, a lot of work was done over the summer break on the district facilities.

Twenty-one projects were completed over that time, including a new cooling tower and transformer installed at Greenwood Elementary (replacing the one damaged from the ice storm in the winter), new ceilings and energy efficient LED lights — also at Greenwood — and the driveway was repaved and the old 1955 cafeteria tables were replaced at New Garden Elementary.

In order to be in compliance with the new standards of the teacher effectiveness program, some changes were made to the district’s Collaborative Assessment Plan (CAP). A committee was put together to keep up with then changes.

Finally, the board approved the WIN program to take a trip to Indiana University of Pennsylvania to participate in the Academic Expo on Oct. 18.

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Categories: Education

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