The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

Local News

March 15, 2014

Director, public want better agendas

GROVE CITY — A Grove City school director wants to discuss how board members and the public can be better informed about agenda items before meetings – which was a theme at Monday’s voting meeting.

Faye Bailey wanted the board to discuss its committee of the whole format at April’s workshop meeting held the first Monday of the month at 7 p.m.

“I’ve been struggling with this for a while,” she said, adding that the board doesn’t see the agenda until Friday afternoon when people are generally working.

In the past, district officials have said it’s not always easy to deliver an early agenda due to last-minute requests that are added.  

However, “When we get it, I don’t understand it. You get one word,” Bailey said, referring to minimal descriptions of some agenda items.

“It’s something the board said it would like more detail on, and that request is not being followed,” she said.

The public is also unable to give informed input due to some bare descriptions on the agenda, which resident Carolyn Oppenheimer addressed.

At last week’s committee of the whole meeting, Superintendent Dr. Richard Mextorf addressed the issue, saying it was “premature” for the public to get new business the board hasn’t seen or discussed itself.

Oppenheimer said that was the board’s authority to decide. She thought directors could receive information by mail the Wednesday prior to a meeting; the public, online by Friday “to provide transparency to citizens,” she said.

At meetings, the public “can’t say anything on our topics because they don’t know,” Bailey said. “And if I don’t know what (the agenda) means, they obviously aren’t going to know what it means.”

Traditionally, board meetings allow public comments without board members giving input or asking questions from the public.

Last year, meetings had allowed more dialogue. Mextorf and board President Sue Herman still address some questions from the public; however, dialogue was mostly curtailed to return to the traditional format. There had been instances when individuals were hoarding time with combative dialogue.

“Sometimes the community has stuff we need to know,” Bailey believed. “Often pressure is put on us to not ask questions from the public ... and there’s a lot of questions I have.”

Adding more information to the agenda for the public to give more informed input could be a “simple” solution, she said.

“I think some things available to the board aren’t always necessarily something we’d want to give (to the public) but we need to decide as a board what we want because it’s our decision.”

The matter will be on April’s workshop agenda, where resident Esther Falcetta also made a request for the board to discuss forming a Citizens Advisory Committee to research and increase board/community engagement.

She quoted “a recent research project” of more than 400 public schools and 26 intermediate units: The majority published their policies online, while the remaining amount published some of them, she said.

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