Mold in my son’s classroom has been an ongoing concern this school year. On March 26th, another parent suggested that it might be worth testifying before the board of education about the issue.
I learned there was a board of education meeting scheduled that night at Suitland High School. I looked up how to testify before the board of education and found out that you only needed to call 2.5 hours in advance. Even disorganized me could manage that! I called a friend to ask if she’d accompany me, and then called to register. The woman who answered took down my name, contact information, and the topic I wanted to speak about.
That evening, we arrived at Suitland High School and discovered that this was going to be a huge meeting. While only two people were scheduled to speak about agenda items, there were twenty-five registered to speak about non-agenda items! The schedule called for the public testimony on agenda items to proceed the board’s main discussion, with the public testimony on non-agenda items to follow. Since there were so many speakers waiting to talk about non-agenda items, the board voted to combine the two public testimony periods (allowing the members of the public to speak and then leave without needing to sit through the rest of the meeting).
The meeting was at Suitland High School rather than the Sasscer administration building where meetings are typically held. Students enrolled in the school’s performing arts magnet program gave a number of performances at the beginning of the meeting. After that, and some brief comments by the CEO and the chairman of the board, the public comment period began. Each speaker is allotted 3 minutes for their testimony. The board does not offer any response; they simply listen and move on to the next speaker. Speakers may not donate their time to other speakers. No one who hasn’t registered in advance may speak. However, you are free to coordinate a large group who each register to speak individually. A family with a concern about bullying had two members speak separately, and a group of teachers from Laurel High School each spoke individually.
After each public speaker gave their testimony, they were asked to leave a copy of their comments with the minute-taker. I had decided to speak so late I didn’t have written comments to leave. I was still editing my remarks while I listened to other people talk!
After the public comment period ended, there was a short break. The vast majority of the audience took this opportunity to leave, since it was already after 9pm. A few members of the board came out to talk with people as the audience mingled in the lobby outside the auditorium.
It was a surprisingly easy process to speak to the board, and the board was very accommodating. I wouldn’t hesitate to do it again if I had another concern.