Licking County News

Southwest Licking

School board planning its strategy for public forums


With a 6.1-mill bond issue on the ballot in May, Southwest Licking school board members called a special meeting Feb. 13 to discuss how to organize three question-and-answer sessions at each of the district's elementary schools.

On Jan. 16, the school board voted to hold February's board meeting at Etna Elementary School, March's board meeting at Kirkersville Elementary School and April's board meeting at Pataskala Elementary School.

Each community forum was scheduled one hour before the regular board meeting. The forums will begin at 6 p.m. in February and April, but will begin at 5:30 p.m. in March to accommodate a student-of-the-month presentation at 6:30 p.m.

On Feb. 13, board members discussed how the meetings would be conducted.

Board member Daniel Bell suggested having all board members present for all three meetings and Superintendent Robert Jennell facilitate.

"We can make sure things move along and progress, everyone gets a voice," Bell said.

Board President Don Huber volunteered to act as "host and referee" for the forums and monitor the time committed to each question.

"We won't be able to go on past an hour," Huber said.

Board member Debra Moore suggested board members would handle microphones for residents with questions or restate questions for attendees not comfortable speaking in public.

"I'm not a real good sitter at these kinds of things," Jennell said, adding that he likely will circulate among the attendees.

Bell asked how long attendees would have to speak.

"We have a tradition of five minutes (each)," Huber said.

The time per speaker is flexible, Huber said, but it will be up to the facilitators to be certain no one goes too long.

Treasurer Richard Jones suggested the forum be advertised as board meetings with a roll call of board members, so there are no open-meeting laws violations because at least a quorum will be present.

"It makes it easier to enforce our rules," Huber said.

Board member Roger Zeune said he was concerned about any ramifications of promoting a district bond issue in a school building.

Jones said the forums are only to answer questions about the bond and will not be promotional.

"It's factual answers only," Jones said. "You can't say, 'Vote yes.' "

Jennell said he will be ready to answer all questions posed, but board members should feel free to speak up, as well.

In other business at the Feb. 13 special meeting, board members entered into a closed executive session to evaluate Jennell.

They briefly re-entered a public session so Huber could announce that the evaluation was positive.

"The board is very supportive of Mr. Jennell," he said. "You're doing a good job."