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School board reduces public comment time from three to two minutes

Original post made on Nov 16, 2022

When members of the public want to speak at a Palo Alto school board meeting they will now have a maximum of two minutes, rather than three minutes, the board decided in a split vote on Tuesday.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, November 16, 2022, 9:56 AM

Comments (10)

Posted by Palo Alto Res
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 16, 2022 at 11:30 am

Palo Alto Res is a registered user.

Apparently parent participation and involvement is a negative issue that needs to be dealt with according to PAUSD Board Trustee members (all the men) who voted to limit public speaking time during Board meetings.

First it was trying to limit access by removing Zoom. Then it was voting to limit speaking time by the community members. Third time is trying to reduce the cap on agenda items.
Truly it appears it is about community participation (or the fact too many people participate) and seems Board wants a community that nods their head and gives them full power to do what they will without any input or thought or opinion from the community.

Once Is Chance, Twice is Coincidence, Third Time's A Pattern.

If time is such an essence and it bothers someone to have the Board meetings run late, then get off the Board. Many people who want to serve and they are not counting the minutes click by.

Posted by Michelle
a resident of Professorville
on Nov 16, 2022 at 11:44 am

Michelle is a registered user.

The majority board vote (Dauber, Collins, Dharap) to reduce public speaking time limits from a standard 3-minutes down to 2-minutes is hugely disappointing. I appreciate our 2 board members, DiBrienza and Ladomirak, voted against this decision along with the 3 public commenters.
Dharap rightly framed continuing to allow comments via zoom as an equity and access issue. This is also an equity and access issue! Shortening speaking times favors the privileged, those who are already practiced at public speaking and have the time to carefully craft their comments to fit within these limits and still get their message across. It very much works against those for whom English is their second language, those who have language processing and other disabilities, and some elderly commenters.
Skilled and practiced speakers, the ones who consistently show up to board meetings, will continue to get their message across without issue. The board majority just ensured that those who we are already least likely to hear from in a public forum will be even less likely to show up and if they do speak less likely to be able to fully convey their concerns, and likely to leave feeling discouraged and diminished.
I hope that the board will at least consider creating an easy to access process whereby speakers who fit into protected classes (age, disability or language) are able to request an accommodation to increase their speaking time. Better yet, let's hope the board reverses this troubling decision.

Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 16, 2022 at 5:03 pm

Bystander is a registered user.

This is basically taking away polite discourse. It means that a prepared comment will contain no polite introductions, no final summing up, and a breathless comment which will be squeezed to the bare minimum which will probably be hard to understand.

There are some who manage to speed up TED talks to double speed so that they can listen to them quickly, but to really understand the full content of a comment, it needs to be done slowly with time to let the information sink in.

Basically, as I said above, it will mean that there is no time whatsoever to get any facts across, quote any data, and have an opinion on the facts and data and consequently the public will not be heard.

Posted by MyFeelz
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Nov 16, 2022 at 5:53 pm

MyFeelz is a registered user.

From the ADA . gov site:

“Under Title II of the ADA, all state and local governments are required to take steps to ensure that their communications with people with disabilities are as effective as communications with others.”

“How is communication with individuals with disabilities different from communication with people without disabilities? For most individuals with disabilities, there is no difference. But people who have disabilities that affect hearing, seeing, speaking, reading, writing, or understanding may use different ways to communicate than people who do not.”

“The effective communication requirement applies to ALL members of the public with disabilities, including job applicants, program participants, and even people who simply contact state or local government agencies seeking information about programs, services, or activities.”

This is federal law. Cities can’t just decide to limit the listening, hearing, or understanding of public discourse for all people without discriminating against those with disabilities in those arenas.

The School Board, of all entities, should be well-versed in the laws pertaining to effective communications. If you’re going to run a school, you should know how the civics laws work. Not only do some people have speech barriers, but many can't hear what this plan will end up sounding like: An auctioneer selling ice cream on a hot day. "SOLD to the highest bidder". The failure to allow ALL the public their civil rights to participate could result in a federal ADA lawsuit.

Posted by Helen Wilcox
a resident of Community Center
on Nov 17, 2022 at 8:22 am

Helen Wilcox is a registered user.

Is there a filibuster option for key topics?

Posted by Anony Mouse
a resident of Professorville
on Nov 17, 2022 at 3:21 pm

Anony Mouse is a registered user.

No there is no filibuster option. This actually reduces public voice on hot topics. Elections matter. The incumbent was resoundingly beaten but Shana Segal. This issue was voted in by an outgoing member, a lame duck and an incumbent who lost almost 2:1 to a challenger. This is the arrogance we are trying to eliminate. PAUSD is not a business. It's democracy. Slow, tedious, tiring but most of all inclusive. Sorry, that means long meetings. This policy represents a step backward. And it was arguably an undemocratic vote given the status of who voted. Please revisit this when the new board is seated.

Posted by Palo Alto Res
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 18, 2022 at 8:15 am

Palo Alto Res is a registered user.

Well that is the irony. Democracy has checks and balances and provides the opportunity for critical thinking, and discourse before a decision is reached. The Board, in reducing public speaking time, as well as attempting to reduce the time on agendized items is their method of reducing democracy and silencing the voices other than their own.

To: Shounak Dharap, Todd Collins, and Ken Dauber, get off the Board and resign if the once a month PAUSD Board meetings where parents, teachers, students and community members speak up with their thoughts, concerns and worries.

If once a month meetings are so onerous because it goes too long for you, get off the Board now. You're not doing anyone any favors other than holding onto power for whatever self serving need you have.

Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 18, 2022 at 5:57 pm

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

We need the board to state what their philosophy is regarding all of the alternate topics which are being touted now. We are the taxpayers and collectivley have a right to hold the board accountable for teaching the SMART subjcts that our children need to succeed in life. We are not a sociology experiment. The biggest problem I see now is having qualified teachers who can teach the SMART required subjects.

Posted by MyFeelz
a resident of another community
on Nov 19, 2022 at 3:37 pm

MyFeelz is a registered user.

@Palo Alto Res, sometimes these seats are just stepping stones to other seats that demand less time, less attention, and more payola. They stay until they can get their foot on the next higher rung. And sometimes they want to make the current seat fit the seats they really aspire to (see "less time, less attention").

Posted by Emily H
a resident of Professorville
on Nov 20, 2022 at 9:59 am

Emily H is a registered user.

This is not a surprise to anyone who has been following the direction the board has been going since they installed DA. We like “One Palo Alto” when we are in National News, but that’s it. How can we spin it to the press is the way Churchill thinks. This is a disservice that will have ramifications for students and families even after this boys club is gone.

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