The Jan. 25 meeting of South-Western City Schools board of education included a discussion of possible changes to the board's public participation policy.

The Jan. 25 meeting of South-Western City Schools board of education included a discussion of possible changes to the board's public participation policy.

It is "somewhat of a P.R. issue," said Karen Dover, a recently elected board member.

Dover asked if the board's policy committee would consider revising a change in the public participation policy that took effect in December 2008.

While campaigning for election, she said, she heard many residents express dissatisfaction with the policy. Most objections centered on the requirement that the public must register by 4 p.m. the Thursday preceding Monday meetings if they want to speak on non-agenda items.

Dover said she understands the policy was created to prevent the public from speaking on personnel issues, but most residents wish to speak on items not so sensitive.

"I think there might be some middle ground that might allow the community to feel like the policy was created for them to give input at these meetings," Dover said.

Cathy Johnson is the board representative on the policy committee.

"I don't share your need to alter the policy," Johnson said. "It's been working well."

She said Wise calls all those who register to speak.

"I think that's extremely valuable," Johnson said. "I know of no one who's missed an opportunity to speak because of the policy."

Wise said he knew of two people who missed an opportunity.

Board member Jo Ellen Myers supported Dover's proposal to revisit the policy.

"I think you're just squelching free speech," Myers said.

Board member Mindy Garverick supported Johnson.

"I don't think we're squelching free speech," she said.

School board president Randy Reisling, who cast the lone vote against the change 13 months ago, said he needs to see more objective information before he makes a decision.

Audience member Steve Isaac, founder of a citizens' community advisory group, raised his hand.

"I'm sorry Mr. Isaac, but I don't believe I can afford you that opportunity at this time," Reisling said.

"That was my point. Thank you," Isaac said.

Reisling requested that district staff brief the board in February on the implications of the change since it took place, and guidelines for public participation at other school districts.