Citizens seek school board ‘Town Halls’

Parents and other education stakeholders could get more opportunities to voice concerns to the Hanover County School Board under a proposed “Town Hall” style meeting.

A couple of concerned residents have suggested the board hold these type of meetings to better facilitate open communication and discussion between meeting attendees and school board members.

Ragan Phillips, a regular at school board meetings, said he feels that when parents or citizens raise issues during public comment, board members do not directly address them at the meetings.

“Nine times out of 10, the issue really dies and it doesn’t go any further,” Phillips said.

Although he recognizes that the board has its own business to discuss, Phillips said he thinks they could make room for more back and forth discussion between board members and the public.

Hank Lowry

Hank Lowry

“What’s lacking is the opportunity for parents and concerned citizens to question the board,” Phillips said.

After a speaker announced his support for the idea at a Feb. 11 school board meeting, Ashland Board Member Hank Lowry suggested he and his colleagues address this topic during an upcoming workshop, which may be scheduled in April but the date has not been confirmed yet.

But last week’s board meeting was not the first time this subject had come up. Stephen Northup, a local attorney and father of children who went through Hanover schools, also recommended the school board adopt the idea during public comment at a January meeting, after Phillips had told him about the concept.

“It made sense to me,” Northup said.

Although he does not attend meetings regularly, Northup said increasing public involvement and discussion with board members would encourage him to attend meetings if a topic that’s important to him is being discussed.

“I think it could make the school board even better than it is,” Northup said.

Vice Chairman Glenn T. Millican Jr., Mechanicsville District representative, supported this idea.

“Having people make comments and suggestions is always good,” Millican recently told the Herald-Progress.

Millican said he hopes that it would encourage more public input.

He said that there would not be a set agenda for these types of meetings other than the topics and issues that residents and concerned citizens would bring up, because Millican said he sees the public forum being more like an “open mic” at first, until it gets rolling.

“It should generate more questions as it goes forward,” Millican said.

However, the “Town Hall”-like meetings would be in addition to the school board’s regular, monthly meetings, because Millican said more discussion would extend the already sometimes-lengthy meetings.

Millican said that the discussion initiated at the meetings would grow and progress over time and topics would more than likely carry over to more than one session.

“[It would allow us] to see what issues are on the minds of the constituents,” Millican said.

Posted on Thursday, February 20, 2014 at 10:59 am