DENVER — Public comment for Denver school board meetings will now be limited to two hours. This is often the only time people are able to speak directly to those that represent them in the school district.
The school board discussed the idea in work session meeting on Sept. 7. Board President Xochitl 'Sochi' Gaytan looked at the change as a way of respecting peoples time rather than limiting it.
"There's been times where we've stayed until midnight, not sure exactly if it was midnight or one in the morning, to hear every single constituent and parent that was coming in," Gaytan, said of that meeting.
The public comment session is now restricted to two hours versus no time limit at all. The amount of time an individual can speak is still three minutes. The monthly public comment session is often the only way parents and students can connect to their leadership.
At Monday's public comment session student Roman Ortiz reminded them of that.
"I am here today because I don't agree with testimony hours," Ortiz said. "Limiting testimony takes away the voice of the community and their right way to give the school board feedback."
The decision has already taken effect. DPS parent Matthew Rustici said he wasn't surprised to hear about it.
"Just feels like every time they have an opportunity to silence the voices they don't want to hear that's what's happening," the father of two said. "It's just been really difficult to feel as a parent the priorities of the kids are first and foremost in the minds of the school board."
Not all board members were supportive of this. Board member Scott Baldermann tweeted he was not in support of it and encouraged two public comment sessions to fix the problem of late nights.
School Board Vice President Auon'tai Anderson tweeted a statement that he was in support of the change especially for the board support staff that put in long hours during public comment session days.
At the Sept. 7 meeting Gaytan cited an administrative policy that allowed them to make the change. She stated it gave the board the right to set a time length of the overall public participation as well as a time limit for each topic and each speaker.
"Because the board desires to hear the viewpoints of all citizens throughout the district and also needs to conduct its business in an orderly and efficient manner, it shall schedule time during some board meetings for brief comments and questions from the public," Gaytan read aloud. "The board shall set a time limit on the length of the public participation time overall, a time limit for each topic and a time limit for individual speakers."
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