Good Evening. My name is Mark Binner. I am not representing any organization and I want to briefly discuss with you this evening my Huntsville City School Board Citizen Comment Experiences for the calendar year 2016.
Bottom Line Up Front
First of all I wanted to commend the HCS Board for giving Citizens of Huntsville, Alabama, the opportunity to comment on any topic concerning public education – Citizen Comments. Thank you for allowing Huntsville Citizens to talk with you directly, face-to-face and not via Social Media or E-Mails. I have talked directly with you three (3) times, this opportunity being my third. I have noted several observations which I am going to share with you this evening to include recommendations that will improve the transparency between the Huntsville City School Board, the teachers, the students (consumers of learning), parents (The primary stakeholders) and The Citizens of Huntsville.
Observation 1: Is Anyone Taking Notes?
The first time that I addressed the board presenting a Citizen Comment, I noticed that the Superintendent, Board Members, and Board Clerk packed up their laptops and prepared their belongings to leave prior to the commencement of Citizen Comments. The HCS Citizen Comments website states that “The Board will study/research all expressed concerns, issues or requests and may respond at a later date1.” If no one is taking notes, how can the School Board respond later? I humbly recommend that Mrs. Ferrell denote highlights for each Citizen Comment so that the School Board members can discuss the comments during the next work session and determine if additional action is required. This is the primary reason why I provide hardcopies of my Citizen Comments.
Observation 2: Put Down Your Phones, Please
I would respectfully ask that Board Members please put down their phones when Citizens are presenting their comments. Paying attention to all Citizens when talking to you face-to-face will demonstrate that you are interested in the topics being discussed. I will make the same promise when you are addressing the Citizens during your Work Sessions – “Actions Speak Louder Than Words.
Observation 3: The Time Limit Is Too Short
I have to tell you that three (3) minutes goes by very quickly – Lighting Speed. A Citizen can use up 20 seconds just satisfying the Citizen Comment Specifications documented on the HCS Website2. Allowing a time limit of five (5) minutes will allow Citizens the opportunity to present meaningful challenge(s) and follow up with a recommended Courses of Action (COAs).
Observation 4: Don’t Make Citizens Wait Until The End
Sometimes waiting up to four (4) hours can wear down a Citizen before they have the opportunity to present their Citizen Comment. My first Citizen Comment that I presented at the 18 February 2016 Board Meeting almost did not happen due to the aggressive Work Session Agenda, but thanks to Walker McGinnis, I was able to address the School Board. I would like to recommend that there be two Citizen Comment Sessions, one comment session prior to the start of the School Board Work Session and one comment session afterward instead of waiting until the end of the Board meeting.
Hearing comments from the Citizens of Huntsville, in my opinion, is vital to maintaining transparency between the governing body of the School Board and the Citizens. As you are all aware, the Citizens of Huntsville elected you to your board seats. If you have not noticed lately, the Citizens in the districts that you represent are energized and ready for a change in the present circumstances. I will continue to present Citizen Comments to the Huntsville City School Board for the foreseeable future. In the coming months, I will encourage every Citizen to register and vote in the upcoming city elections. Local elections are the ones that have the most significant impact on the Citizen’s daily life.
It is time for One Huntsville!
Thank you for allowing me to present my Citizen Comment to the Huntsville City School Board.
– Mark Binner