Jennifer Shiao’s School Committee Blog
Editor’s note: . Jennifer Shiao is a member of the Amherst School Committee. Her original posts can be found here. An archive of her blog posts in The Indy can be found here.
There have been some questions about Public Comment at School Committee meetings recently, so here is a Q&A on this topic.
Q: What is Public Comment?
A: Public Comment is an umbrella term covering comments and statements made by members of the public at a public meeting. If you wish to address the School Committee, and you wish to have your comments be heard or read by the general public, you could do so during the Public Comment period.
Q: How do I make or submit a Public Comment?
A: There are multiple ways to make or submit a Public Comment at School Committee meetings.
- Send an email to SCPublicComment@arps.org before 3:00 pm on the day of the meeting. Your email will be displayed on the screen during the Public Comment period, and it will be posted as an attachment in the Public Comment agenda item for that meeting on the School Committee’s Boarddocs site.
- Send a text to 413-362-1891 before 3:00 pm on the day of the meeting. Your text will be displayed on the screen during the Public Comment period, and it will be posted as an attachment in the Public Comment agenda item for that meeting on the School Committee’s Boarddocs site.
- Leave a voicemail at 413-362-1891 before 3:00 pm on the day of the meeting. Your voicemail will be played during the Public Comment period.
- Attend the meeting in person and make your comment in person during the Public Comment period. There is usually no sign-up for in-person Public Comment.
Whenever there is Public Comment at a meeting, the instructions for how to make or submit public comment can be found in the Public Comment item on the agenda. (Here is an example.)
Q: I sent an email to the School Committee. Why was it not shown during the Public Comment period?
A: There are a few reasons why emails may not be shown.
- If you sent the email to a different email address (such as AmherstSchoolCommittee@aprs.org or RegionalSchoolCommittee@arps.org), it would not be considered Public Comment. Some people want to contact the School Committee and do not want their email displayed for the public. In order to be certain that an email is intended for Public Comment, individuals are asked to send it to the specific email address for Public Comment (SCPublicComment@arps.org).
- If the email was not received before 3:00 pm on the day of the meeting it may not be shown. There has to be time allowed for the chair to compile all emails received into one document, so we ask that comments be sent before 3:00 pm.
Q: Is Public Comment required at School Committee meetings?
A: No, Public Comment is not required by law. But the School Committee’s practice is to have a Public Comment period at each meeting. This is at the discretion of the chair.
Q: Is it super confusing, or is it just me?
A: It’s not just you; it is super confusing! Different public bodies have their own policies and practices about Public Comment. For example, the Amherst Town Council does not accept Public Comments via voicemail. They also do not display email or text Public Comments at their meetings, but they do make them available for viewing by the public on their website.
The best way to get the most up-to-date info on how to make or submit Public Comment for a School Committee meeting is to look at the Public Comment agenda item for that meeting. (Here is another example.)
This blog reflects my own views about the Amherst and Amherst-Pelham Regional School Committees – it does not represent the view of the committees, the district, or the superintendent. This blog complies with Open Meeting Law, as long as a quorum of School Committee members do not engage in deliberations in the comments. Comments are welcome. I may respond to comments, but I will not respond to all comments. Sign up here using the “follow blog via email” form to be notified when I post a new entry. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.