Tucson USD Governing Board proposes changes to public comment during meetings

(Tucson Unified School District)
Published: Jul. 14, 2022 at 10:39 AM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The Tucson Unified Governing Board proposed a change in how it wants to conduct calls to the audience.

It’s a topic tackled during a board meeting on Tuesday, July 12.

The board voted 4-1 to move the proposal forward for public review and comments.

Experts said more parents nationwide are voicing their opinions and it’s understandable why boards might change policies, but that opens the door to more scrutiny if not handled properly.

It’s a chance for parents, staff, and students to be heard by board members.

It can at times be controversial, lively and heated.

The proposal includes managing speaker time.

Now the board wants the option to shorten the time of individual speakers to allow more to be heard.

“So anytime that that’s limited, it could see that might put some pressure on constituents. They don’t like that,” said Pima County Superintendent Dustin Williams, who we asked to provide insight into constituents’ rights.

“But at the same time, these schools have got to get the policies and procedures and all that day-to-day business done at those meetings. There’s a fine line in between there of how you balance that,” he said.

The biggest proposed policy change is the order of speakers.

Comments related to agenda items would be given priority.

“That’s going to be the challenge here,” Williams said, “How does everybody’s voice get heard?”

It’s a concern brought up by board member Sadie Shaw, the only one to vote against the new proposal.

Tucson Education Association President Margaret Chaney agrees with Shaw’s concern and doesn’t like the new proposal either.

“I don’t envy their position right now. I think things are fine the way they are,” she said.

Both Williams and Cheney said transparency is key and steps should be taken to ensure no one is left out.

“I think the vetting process of how you pick and who gets to go. That needs to be really transparent. There needs to be some mechanism that says ‘hey, we had 45 or however many people that wanted to speak. We only got to speak to 30 tonight’ or so forth,” Williams said.

Cheney suggests listing the speakers and topics before the board meetings.

“These are the calls to the audience on whichever agenda items and then these are call to the audience on items that are not on the agenda. And that way, everybody gets their voice out,” she said.

The board is also looking into grouping speakers addressing the same topic.

The board will post the proposal for public comment, but hasn’t said when.

We asked and we’ll get you that information once we receive it.

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