The Douglas County School Board's recent decision to restrict public comment has had an unexpected impact, at least momentarily uniting many who traditionally have stood on opposite sides of the board's decisions.
Many Douglas County residents …
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Many Douglas County residents who disagree on the board-initiated voucher program, teacher evaluations, budgetary and other issues have come together to agree that the March 25 policy change goes too far.
A member of DCSD's District Accountability Committee and a district captain with the Douglas County Republicans resigned his DAC post after the 6-1 vote to limit general public comment to five minutes per meeting. Former DAC member David DiCarlo did not return calls to Colorado Community Media requesting comment, but said during a March 18 discussion about the proposed policy, “I don't always like what my neighbors have to say … but I would die for their right to say it.”
Board member Meghann Silverthorn was the lone director to vote against the public comment policy change.
Though the board-approved motion allows board president Kevin Larsen discretion to expand the time for public comment, another Douglas County Republicans' district captain decried the change as “an unreasonable restriction on public participation.”
“That the board president has not been able to preside efficiently over public meetings is insufficient justification to establish arbitrary and oppressive restrictions,” reads a post from Dave Gill on both the Douglas County Republicans' and Doug Co Champions for Kids Facebook pages. “As inconvenient as the more autocratic elected officials among us may find it, we still live in a Republic.”
Promoted as a way to expedite the board's business, the change focuses the bulk of public comment on items listed on the agenda. Instead of the 30-minute period now reserved for public comment, much of which has been sharply critical of the board — public comment now will be allowed only at the meeting's end during a five-minute, one-minute-per-speaker period.
The Douglas County Republicans actively campaigned for and supported the reform-minded board members in the last three elections, but Gill said he's far from alone in his position.
“I think you could safely say many of the Republicans who support and have supported the board are not at all pleased with this decision and certainly will be urging them to correct it,” Gill said. “I think the board has to learn to be more open and to appear more open.”
Larsen did not return calls from Colorado Community Media requesting comment.
Gill is among many who hope the discovery of common ground in the long-divided DCSD school board community could spark some unity.
“Maybe that is something good that will come out of this,” he said.
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