Brandywine school board approves changes to meeting schedule

Published 10:31 am Tuesday, March 14, 2023

NILES CHARTER TOWNSHIP — The Brandywine Community Schools Board of Education approved changes to its April and May meeting schedule during its Monday meeting at the Brandywine Middle/High School gymnasium.

The board moved 4-3 to chhange the April 10th and May 8th board meeting dates to committee meetings instead of regular board meetings at the discretion of the respective committee chairs. The board will then meet Monday, April 24 and Monday, May 22 to conduct regular board meeting business. The meeting location was also changed from the middle/high school auxiliary gym to the main gym as part of the motion.

“I personally feel that allocating those meetings to committee work would give the opportunity to have involvement for everyone we would like to be involved,” said Secretary Angela Seastrom. “We’re not canceling the meetings, just redefining it as not a regular meeting but a committee meeting. That would also give the opportunity if something arose throughout the month where we needed to have the meeting for a regular meeting for business purposes, everyone’s already planning on being here for that meeting, we can just call a special meeting and identify that there will be regular business conducted ahead of the meetings breaking out and doing what they need to do.”

Trustees Holly Pomranka, Jessica Crouch and Brian Burge voted against the decision. Crouch believed the board was acting before committees were even formed. Board President Thomas Payne replied to her stating that the committees had been formed and that committee chairs had been selected. Payne drafted committee ground rules, responsibilities and procedures that he will send to board members and superintendent Walker Tuesday to seek input. He went on to say that committee chairs and co-chairs will be meeting this week to select members and that by Friday the committees’ first meetings will be scheduled. The names of the committee chairs have not been released.

“And again, if we do go with Seastrom’s recommendation, the chair of that meeting – and co-chair, for that matter – can decide whether the first meeting in April is appropriate or not, if they’re ready to move forward but certainly they would have a placeholder for (the April 8 meeting),” Payne said. “That would not prevent them from scheduling other meetings as the chair or co-chairs deems appropriate.”

Pomranka said the board typically does a lot of hiring each spring and asked if this new schedule would mean the board would have to schedule extra meetings. Seastrom answered by saying that the board would be able to conduct business during the committee meetings if the situation arises.

“That was my suggestion with keeping that second meeting every month,” Seastrom said. “If that comes up, we can conduct business first – call a special meeting on that day since everybody’s already got it scheduled – to conduct business before the committee portion commences and then adjourn the special meeting for whatever business and proceed into the committees.”

“So this would keep our board dates?” Pomranka asked.

“The dates would essentially say the same,” Seastrom replied. “It would just be basically amending the designation of a regular meeting to a committee meeting.”

The board also discussed limiting public participation at board meetings. Currently, Brandywine’s Neola Policy 0167.3, which affects public participation at board meetings, states that each statement made by a public participant is limited to a duration of five minutes.

Pomranka asked why the proposed change was to two minutes when several local districts allow for a duration of three minutes.

“Two minutes is extremely aggressive,” Crouch added. “I just feel like as a board, we shouldn’t walk in and start changing policies like this during a situation of turmoil when it comes to public speaking in our community members.”

Crouch noted that Monday’s meeting was the first since the board’s leadership change in January where public comment has been allowed both prior to the start of meeting business and after. She asked that if any changes were to be made to the duration of public comment that it be three minutes per speaker, at least.

The board agreed with Crouch and Pomranka that three minutes of public participation before and after the agenda would be adequate.

“I’m open to three minutes. I think that’s very reasonable,” Payne said. “I’m certainly open to putting public comments in the front of the agenda, as long as it pertains to action items on the agenda and then we can have public comments at the end of the agenda for general comments. I think that is a good compromise.”

“Just looking at other districts in the county, it’s reasonable that we reduce the amount of time from five minutes to something less than five minutes, especially considering the amount of speakers that we’ve had on a consistent basis the last several meetings and taking into consideration everybody’s time,” Seastrom added. “I’ve heard that people no longer want to attend meetings because they take too long; I’ve personally heard that. I think to be considerate of everybody’s time it makes sense to reduce it. I’m open to the three minutes – I don’t think that’s unreasonable but I think five minutes is quite lengthy to have that many speakers and to run a meeting for four hours.”

The decision is expected to be voted on during the board’s April 24 meeting.