NEW HANOVER COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) – The New Hanover County school board plans to discuss changing the way it holds its call to the audience portion at board meetings.
Right now, the public can sign-up to speak online on a first come, first served basis, with a few spots reserved for people who sign-up in-person. At a recent policy committee meeting, Board Chair Stephanie Kraybill mentioned changing that policy to one that chooses speakers via a random number generator.
“I just think we need to have more people have the opportunity to speak,” Kraybill said.
Kraybill says the overwhelming majority of public comments at recent meetings have been about two topics: suspensions for younger students and compensation rates for teaching assistants. While she looks for ways to allow people to speak on a more diverse range of topics, concerned residents say there is an easy fix.
“It’s a very easy solution,” said Leslie Posey, a New Hanover County resident. “There is one sentence in the policy that they need to change and they would eliminate all of those speakers.”
The policy committee discussed a system that would notify people chosen in the lottery ahead of time, and Kraybill says the board could move on to other agenda items if everyone chosen and present has spoken since the policy calls for up to one hour of public comments. Some people say this can be dangerous.
“Now we’re seeing more and more people come out. That’s something we fought to do for a really long time and so, if that is silenced, that’s detrimental to our county, to our kids, to the staff. I think that’s a dangerous move,” said Angie Kahney, a New Hanover County resident.
At the policy committee meeting Tuesday, members mentioned that the board would not need to vote to put the lottery system in place, but Kraybill plans to discuss the topic with her fellow board members at the next full board meeting on Tuesday, January 18.
“I’m just looking for any way possible to get more people a chance to speak. I won’t do that without, of course, without having board consensus and so, therefore, we need to have the dialogue.”
The meeting is scheduled for Tuesday at 5:00 p.m.
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