In light of recent questions from the public, we felt it would be helpful to share a clarification of our Public Comment policy and other avenues of communication prior to the December board of education meeting.
In Caroline, we like to think of ourselves as a kind and welcoming community, one that naturally practices civility. Recently, Caroline County Public Schools and the Caroline County Public Library joined together to launch the Choose Civility campaign, aimed at thinking about our actions and interactions both in person and on social media. I’m hopeful that we can honor that campaign at board meetings and through other avenues of communication.
The purpose of the Public Comment portion of the board meeting is for the Board to hear the views or advice of interested citizens. Because it is a public meeting of the Board, not a meeting between the Board and public, the Board does not engage in discussion. If it is necessary, the Board president or superintendent may respond at a later time.
Our public comment policy states, “Specific and personal references to students, employees or others associated with the Board of Education will not be permitted.” As an employer bound by local contracts, and state and federal employment law, we cannot share details about current or former employees. This includes but is not limited to how and why staffing assignments are made, and how and why employment is terminated. When former employees choose to share incomplete or inaccurate information, which in turn is then shared by others, we are prohibited by law from privately or publicly correcting the record in any way.
By the same token, parents may choose to privately or publicly share details of their child’s experience in school. However, we cannot provide explanations or clarifications because of student privacy laws.
Along the same lines, we use social media to communicate in a limited way and for specific purposes. When social media is used by others to state as fact why decisions were made and the motives behind those decisions, or to repeat a conversation, we cannot respond to clear up misconceptions or mischaracterizations. When social media is used to disparage and name-call a staff member, we cannot respond.
We place a high value on staff and community opinion and have created several avenues for input. In addition to public comment at board meetings, we have a School Improvement Team at each school, comprised of staff, families, and community members, and a School System Improvement Council at the Board level, comprised of representatives from the school teams. We have a Citizens Advisory Committee with members nominated by principals and board members. The Superintendent meets with high school students monthly. Most of our schools have active PTAs. Teachers and support staff are represented by the Caroline County Educator’s Association. Lastly, we respond as best we can to email, phone calls, and letters. But once again, we remain bound by laws governing employment and student privacy.
We welcome community members at the Board of Education meeting, and look forward to hearing from anyone wishing to speak during Public Comment.
Louise M. Cheek, President
Caroline County Board of Education
Board of Education Meeting Public Comment Policy:
The members of the Caroline County Board of Education desire to hear the views and have the advice of interested citizens. The public comment session is held at each Board meeting for that purpose.
The following procedures are to be followed during this time:
- Each person who wishes to address the Board must sign-in at the podium before the meeting begins. Each person must sign the roster as well as the Sounding Board Session form.
- Each person addressing the Board will have a five-minute time limit. Once the time limit has been reached, the speaker will be asked to finish their comments. A small bell device will ring.
- Specific and personal references to students, employees or others associated with the Board of Education will not be permitted. Should someone wish to bring something to the attention of the Superintendent or the Board about a specific person or student, they may do so in writing to the Superintendent or the Board.
- Rude, slanderous, or threatening remarks or other behavior that is disruptive or interferes with the order of the meeting is not permitted.
- Individuals may not give their time to others on the list of speakers.
The Board of Education does not engage in a discussion of the matter being brought to it during public comments. Community members who want a response may submit this request in writing to the Superintendent.