Rude v. Inviting

Last Thursday, the Hickman Mills Board of Education held its regular February meeting. Because it has been ages since I’ve attended one, I thought I’d go, and especially because they were to discuss school closings.

There was discussion between a couple of board members about what is being done to attract new families. Part of the answer had been right in front of their faces; yet, they didn’t even see it.

To begin with—a first for this district—patrons had to sign in with name, address, and telephone number along with their topic in order to speak to the Board. The President asked those wishing to speak to keep their comments to two minutes since the agenda was rather long. Because the President, in consultation with the Superintendent, sets the agenda, it seems like the length could have been addressed at the time of actually setting the agenda; however, I digress. Not only were patrons asked to keep their comments short, but a large screen with a countdown clock started counting down two minutes, when each commenter reached the podium.

Another first for this district: there are no comments allowed after the meeting, so there is no opportunity to give the Board feedback or ask a question about anything that was discussed.

In the past, patrons have simply raised their hands and waited to be called on under an agenda item titled “audience input on agenda items” for comments at the beginning and “audience input/questions” for input/questions at the end of the meeting. While patrons were asked to keep their comments to three minutes, there was no giant clock reminding them of the number of seconds left.

This lack of willingness to hear from the public and the indirect intimidation also seems counter to the KC Star’s reporting that “board members said they will consider the community concerns as they study the proposals.”

The Board also seems to have agreed to a timed agenda and according to Thursday’s agenda, discussion of school closings was to begin at 6:40; yet it was closer to 8:30 before the consultant began speaking. This agenda item was almost last, followed only by committee reports (3) and informational items.

My bet would be that most of the audience was there to hear about the school closing proposals; yet, the board president chose to put this item at the end and didn’t allow proper timing for the other items. This again, was not fair to those with their own personal timing schedules/issues who may have needed to leave early or might have arrived later.

All in all, this Board is totally rude to its constituents; yet, can’t understand why people either leave or don’t move in. While this may seem like a small detail compared to test scores, economic issues, etc., it can have a strong psychological impact.