District 303 board looks to make public participation rules for meetings less confusing

St. Charles Unit District 303 board members want to make it easier for residents to understand the district's rules on public participation at meetings.

The board's Citizen Advisory Committee has been discussing the issue.

"The CAC recommendation is that we should follow the policy, but the policy as written is a bit confusing and that makes it difficult for the community as well as the board members to know exactly what our policy states," board member Becky McCabe told fellow board members at the school board's policy committee meeting on Monday.

McCabe also sits on the Citizen Advisory Committee. As she noted, the district's policy is that "for an overall minimum of 30 minutes during each regular and special open meeting, any person may comment to or ask questions of the School Board subject to the reasonable constraints established and recorded in this policy's guidelines below. During public participation, there will be a 20-minute minimum total length of time for any one subject. When public participation takes less time than these minimums, it shall end."

Prior to the public comment portion of a meeting, a board member reads a statement that "School Code provides for a public comment period at each board meeting subject to reasonable constraints. The practice of this board is to limit public comment to three minutes per speaker to a total of 30 minutes per meeting."

Board member Kate Bell, who also sits on the Citizen Advisory Committee, agreed that the rules are confusing.

"How can you control that you have a minimum of 20 minutes of comments? If somebody doesn't show up, are we violating our own policy?" Bell asked.

Board member Joseph Lackner said adjusting the policy would be fairly straightforward.

"It would be a simple amendment to simply strike out that 20-minute minimum and put the focus on the 30 minute maximum per meeting as the guideline," he said. "And then we would be in compliance with our own policy. I think we could bring back a policy change that said, let's eliminate the 20-minute minimum total length of time."

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