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Lincoln County School Board’s decisions will hurt access

In a move labeled as being more efficient, the Lincoln County School Board will now only meet once monthly instead of twice monthly.

The board also is doing away with its public comment period at each meeting.

Both decisions were made with good intentions, but the result will be less public access and less public input when it comes to education issues.

Superintendent Mickey Myers made the recommendation to move to fewer meetings based on what he learned through his participation in the Superintendents Academy.

Myers said there were 28 superintendents in the academy and Lincoln County was one of only two represented that still held two meetings each month. Harrison County was the other.

Moving to one board meeting per month will help take the workload off the board secretary, Regina East, he said.

That’s logical, but it will still reduce the public’s access to the school board. The school board, which is elected, is accountable to voters. A public school board meeting is the time and place to question policy decisions or to complain about a problem. It’s the public’s only opportunity to address all board members directly in a public forum.

Reducing the meeting frequency to once monthly provides fewer opportunities for the public to do that.

The decision to kill the public comment period was likely made after recent board meetings got out of hand. It’s an understandable decision but one that will result in less accountability for the board and other school officials.

According to Myers, most school districts no longer allow impromptu public comments at board meetings. The public can still request to be on the agenda and can speak, but must be approved before the meeting.

“We need to know 72 hours in advance if you request to be on the agenda,” Myers said. “It has to be for a valid reason. If you have a problem with an employee or a situation at a school, I would prefer you come here and discuss it with me in person. It’s my job and my responsibility to present it to the board as necessary.”

That’s exactly the problem with the new policy. Myers would like parents — or voters — who have complaints about principals or other school officials to address those with him directly instead of going to the school board in a public meeting.

The move may very well lead to the problem being handled more quickly, but it will also keep those issues out of the public eye.

The result will be less accountability and a less-informed public. Neither is good policy for any public body.