School Policy Feedback: Public Comment at School Committee Meetings

Recently, the Northborough-Southborough District has begun posting the “First Reading” of proposed new/revised policies on a feedback site. The latest posted policy is a new one for “Public Comment at School Commitee Meetings”.

As a fan of government transparency, I’m happy to see that the committee is making the proposed policies more publicly available and improving the ability for the public to comment on them. 

On that same note, I’m personally not a huge fan of some language in the latest policy posted – the Public Comment policy for School Committee Meetings.

I’ve long lamented that the committee generally doesn’t interact with public commenters or answer questions, even when the topic is on the committee’s agenda. Here, the policy cements that strategy by stating that public comment is not for dialogue with or asking questions of the committee. It only allows the public to express opinions.

On the other hand, with the lack of civility seen around the country at some school committee meetings, I can also understand the need for setting expectations and defining boundaries.

I’m curious what others will think.

Below is the policy proposed. (I pasted the version from the Regional School Committee, but the language seemed to be the same for Southborough.) If you have an opinion on the topic, you have until the 2nd reading to officially weigh in here. (I don’t have a date for the 2nd readings, but it shouldn’t be sooner than their January meetings.)


The School Committee encourages public comment at all regular and special meetings, which will take place during the public comment portion of the agenda.

Public comment is not for discussion, debate, or dialogue between individuals and the School Committee or for soliciting answers to questions. It is an individual’s opportunity to express an opinion on issues within the School Committee’s authority

The following rules and procedures are adopted for public comment:

  1. A speaker is encouraged to present remarks in a respectful manner.
  2. All remarks will be addressed through the presiding Chair of the meeting.
  3. A speaker must begin their comments by stating their name, address and City/Town of residence.
  4. The public comment segment shall not exceed 15 minutes. The presiding Chair, in an extenuating circumstance, may permit an extension of the public comment segment.
  5. Each speaker will be allowed up to three (3) minutes to present. The presiding Chair, in an extenuating circumstance, may permit extension of the speaker’s (3) minutes. Any public comments may be submitted in writing to the Chair.
  6. Topics for discussion shall be limited to those items within the School Committee’s scope of authority. Its authority centers on the review and approval of the District’s budget, the performance of the Superintendent, and the District’s educational goals and policies. Comments and/or complaints regarding school personnel (apart from the Superintendent) or students are prohibited unless those comments and/or complaints concern matters within the Committee’s scope of authority.
  7. The presiding Chair of the meeting, after a warning, reserves the right to terminate comment that is outside the School Committee’s authority, or is not constitutionally protected because it constitutes threats that are likely to provoke a violent reaction and cause a breach of the peace, or incitement to imminent lawless conduct, or contains obscenities or inappropriate language.

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Kathryn Rose
1 year ago

Of course I support civility but as someone who wanted to speak out on an issue I felt passionate about, I don’t see a reason to limit the time. I listened to the last 4 school committee meetings and there were no public comments at all so why are we fixing a problem that does not exist?
Remove the time limits until issues arise where it needs to be addressed.
While I sympathize with the school committee members and the district that these meetings run late, that is what they signed up for and the public should have the right to be heard.

Anita Reeder
1 year ago

I find it incomprehensible that these “rules” need to be written down and adopted as policy when once upon a time civility WAS the rule not the exception. What has happened to our society that people cannot leave personal attacks, foul language and the like out of an exchange of ideas, comments or their concerns. Children’s education is a very important, and at times, emotional topic of conversation but as adults, we should all be able to exercise kindness and civility. Serving on a school committee is NOT easy and the decisions that sometimes have to be made are difficult ones, but if you don’t like the way the schools are being run, go to the voting booth and make a change. And before you cast that vote, make sure you have done your due diligence and know who you are electing and what they stand for and believe. If you find it difficult to speak in public or are concerned you cannot do so with kindness and civility, then write a letter and either read that out loud at a meeting or send a copy to all school committee members prior to the meeting. Please, let us return to a kinder, more mature way of communicating.

Kelly Roney
1 year ago
Reply to  Anita Reeder


Frank Crowell
1 year ago

Following orders from the Teacher’s Union. That is all this this. I’m personally waiting for an answer from eight years ago brought up by a respected citizen in town. There was nothing in his question that was uncivil or heated in tone.

Any answers from the elected officials on CRT? I didn’t so. They do not owe answers.

You cannot fix what is wrong in Southborough without looking at reducing the money spent. If you ask them where cuts can be made – the answer is nowhere and please stop asking.

Oh and defund the Teacher’s Union

Give it a rest frank
1 year ago
Reply to  Frank Crowell

Imaginary CRT issues [please, point to it on the doll –erm, curriculum] and shadowy teacher’s union puppet master. All we need is a Soros Boogeyman and you get a hat trick!

I’m with Beth & Kathyrn – in America such constraint of speech and action should be reactive to actual issues, not prior restraint to chill speech.

Frank Crowell
1 year ago

I to agree with Beth and Kathryn as you summarized. Since I am sure these rules will be enacted, I have one addition: Any question that cannot be answered during Education meeting presented by a town resident must be answered at the top of the next meeting


As for my assertion of Teacher’s Union influence, can someone explain why these rules were suddenly needed? Has there been any Education meetings that resemble anything close to what we have seen on the news from other parts of the country?

Fairly easy to prove I am wrong. If all correspondence between the Superintendent’s office, the Education Committee’s and any Teacher’s Union rep is released (non personnel related), it would be cleared up fast. Would also like to see all lunches taken by Education Committee members with Union reps and Superintendent – and who picked up the check.

Kelly Roney
1 year ago
Reply to  Frank Crowell

Between the lines: “Frank” has no actual evidence, just another way of making his same slander.
1 year ago

Stop this insanity. If something is said at a meeting, by a speaker, and the board or chairperson doesn’t like the remark, then they can quash the the speaker? As a democracy, land of the free. This is not free. Taxpayers speaking out on a subject should not be reprimanded like children. Why not respond to questions and concerns brought out by the speaker. Why go to these meetings, if one doesn,’t receive an answer to their concerns. This is the venue in which to answer questions. If not here, than where. More restrictions by the gods of the school committee. You serve us, we don’t serve you.

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