Public Comment Moves Back to Start of School Board Meetings

By Alex Malm

The Tuesday night, Nov. 9, Londonderry School Board meeting marked the third straight meeting that public comment took place at the end of the meeting instead of the beginning where it was traditionally held.

Chairman Amy Finamore said the move was made because of the interruptions they had lately throughout the meetings.

Many in attendance for the meeting disagreed with the decision.

“You have no respect whatsoever for these parents here, nothing,” said Al Baldasaro, a local State Representative. “Up at the State House we hold public comment right in the beginning because we respect the people that show up.”

Resident Glenn Douglas also expressed his concerns about having public comment at the end.

“I don’t know who decided to hold public comment between 10 and 11 o’clock at night. I’m curious how long we’re going to do this,” Douglas said. “You have budget workshops coming up, are you going to make people sit here? I’ve been in budget workshops until 11 o’clock at night. We’re gonna have to sit here and wait until 11:30 to comment on what already happened? This is ridiculous. I’ve been coming to these meetings since 2006. I have never seen the disrespect shown by people.”

School Board member Bob Slater said that he feels it’s important to have the public comment before they vote on things because it allows the public an opportunity to weigh in on issues.

“You should always listen to them and as long as they’re civil and I think they’ve shown that over the last three meetings so I would like to see it moved back,” Slater said.

He said that he asked that public comment be moved back to the beginning already and wanted it moved to the beginning for their next meeting.

Finamore said that she thinks they will be able to move public comment to the beginning again but wasn’t sure if they should do so at the next meeting.

“I do intend for it to eventually go back to the beginning. We have had three successful meetings with minimal disruptions which I do consider to be pretty successful. I’d like to see a little bit more before we move it back,” she said.
School Board member Greg DePasse said that he thought they should move it back to the beginning of the next meeting.

“I know there’s a lot of people who are concerned today so I would say for the next meeting move public comment to the beginning. If it’s orderly if people are respectful we can continue that trend,” DePasse said.

Slater pointed out that they are going into budget season and it will be important to hear from the community and to allow them to voice their opinions.

“We need their support if we want to pass a budget to keep doing what we are doing for our students,” Slater said. “And I think we need to listen to them and give them the opportunity again to be heard at the beginning of the meeting.”

School Board member Nancy Hendricks said that the disruptions have put them “behind the eight ball.”

“The Board has a lot of work to do where I feel like we’re still playing catch-up,” she said.

Hendricks said that for budget season she wouldn’t mind if they had public comment earlier in the meeting but noted they need to make sure that is when people speak and not during the business portion of the meeting.

“It’s completely inappropriate to interrupt the Board when they are deliberating,” Hendricks said. “The minute we start seeing interruptions I really think we have to go back to being able to conduct the business of the District.”

The School Board voted in favor of moving public comment back to the beginning of the meeting with the chairman having the ability to move it back to the end of the meeting at their discretion depending on the tone of the meeting. They will also have public comment for a minimum of 30 minutes but it can be extended if needed.

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