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Sarasota School Board advances revised public comment policy

The policy, which the board plans to discuss at a future meeting, would move general comments to the end of board meetings.

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Following up on previous discussions, the Sarasota County School Board arrived at a consensus that a revised public comment policy would be placed on a future meeting agenda. 

The resolution would create two distinct public comment periods: agenda item comments prior to board discussions, and general comments after the board discusses the agenda. 

It would offer three minutes for agenda item comments and two for general comments, with speakers allowed to weigh in during both periods and with employees, students and parents given priority.

Board member Tom Edwards suggested offering a 15-minute grace period for commenters to submit a card.

“If someone’s really rushing to get here to make a public comment, anything could happen,” he said.

However, he was against a proposed change that would prohibit speakers from passing at their turn, saying he believed all board members should be present during comment. During past meetings, some speakers had requested to postpone their turn to a point when all board members would be present in the room.

He also questioned the nature of "content neutral and reasonable restrictions,” saying he preferred language stating that topics should be “relevant” to the board’s business. 

Board members Bridget Ziegler and Tim Enos said they agreed with passing the resolution with Edwards’ changes.

Ziegler clarified she did not agree with allowing speakers to pass on their turn and that she was neither “here nor there” on a 15-minute grace period. 

“I do want to move forward I'm excited about the efforts being done in this district; I'd echo your statements there,” she later said, addressing Chair Karen Rose. 

Board member Robyn Marinelli said she wanted the results of the grace period to be monitored and “probably” would not support it, while Rose said she did not support it. 

“I'm not opposed to giving anybody a chance, but I think that could have the potential of backing up, with people knowing they have an additional 15 minutes to get here and get their cards in,” Marinelli said. 

“I would suggest when the meeting starts, the administrative assistant for the board has time to prioritize those cards,” Rose said, stating she saw a consensus on the topic among the five board members.



Ian Swaby

Ian Swaby is the Sarasota neighbors writer for the Observer. Ian is a Florida State University graduate of Editing, Writing, and Media and previously worked in the publishing industry in the Cayman Islands.

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