RICHMOND – A lack of communication between District 2 school board members and residents has been a recurring complaint over the last few months.
Attendance at school board meetings exploded following news that the board was considering giving back some of the $10.4 million it had in savings.
Parents questioned why the money hadn’t been spent on improving the buildings and grounds, updating technology and bringing back programs cut when the district’s finances were in dire straits.
Many of those concerns have been addressed or are in the process of being addressed, the culmination of plans that have been in the works since before the abatement was proposed.
But communication remains an issue – at least for two parents who spoke at the recent board meeting Wednesday evening.
The two comments – a mix of thanks and requests for more change – are in stark contrast to the public input sessions that lasted more than an hour at meetings late last year and early this year.
One parent, Jessica Bis, asked about the board’s policies on subcommittees and whether membership was open to the public. Bis, a Spring Grove resident and parent of four children, has twins in first grade.
Other school districts let residents submit questions ahead of meetings, put board communication policies on websites and respond to resident comments or questions by phone or email, Bis said.
She had wanted a follow-up after her last public input, she said, but she didn’t get it.
Bis is owed a response, board member Mindy Ross said during a discussion of board committees.
Like most area school districts, most of District 2’s committees are made up of school board members. Sometimes the board creates a committee charged with a specific task like evaluating technology, and community members are asked to serve on them.
Adding residents to the committees could help them understand the process better and could facilitate communication back to others, Ross said.
Like board meetings, committee meetings are open to the public and have public input sessions, Board President Bert Irslinger said, throwing out the idea of email alerts.
Staff recently started posting the agendas of committee meetings to the district’s website, Superintendent Dan Oest said. In the past, only full board meeting agendas were posted, and committee agendas were posted on the door of the school.
The meetings are not regularly scheduled, he added. They’re based off the schedules of committee members, and meetings occur as needed.
The board also discussed livestreaming the meetings or posting videos of the meetings to the website afterward.