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School board adapts to allow more input

We hope these changes make it easier to communicate with the board.

Visitors to Forest Grove School Board meetings will notice a change this year in how issues are addressed and how the board responds to public input.

We hope these changes, and some others we're undertaking, will make it easier for the public to communicate with the board.

In the past, the only time for public comment that didn't relate to agenda items was early in the meeting.

While there will continue to be time set aside for 'Unscheduled Public Appearance,' we will also allow time for public comment on certain pending issues during the 'Future Action Items' portion of the agenda.

Future action items will normally be placed on the agenda and discussed at least one meeting in advance of the scheduled vote to give all a chance to make an informed decision.

This will give the public the opportunity to weigh in on proposed items which may require a board vote during subsequent meetings. This will give the board members valuable input that will help in their decision-making.

In the past it has been board policy to listen but refrain from responding to public comment during the 'Unsched-uled Public Appearance' period.

Although this was intended to allow the board and staff time to research any questions before making a public response, we realize that the community found this frustrating.

Beginning this fall, board members will attempt to answer questions or ask the appropriate administrative staff to answer the public's questions.

The board leadership team will determine how to best address questions that cannot be answered immediately. Questions will be addressed either during a scheduled school board meeting, on the FGSD website, or followed up with an e-mail.

These changes are a result of the summer work sessions in which board members unanimously agreed on process changes that will improve how we communicate with the community.

It is also important for the public to understand that the purpose of a public school board meeting is to conduct board business in public and is not intended to be a meeting with the public.

However, the members of the Forest Grove School Board are committed to ensuring the public has an opportunity to participate as much as possible in the process.

It is our sincere hope that the changes we are implementing this fall will help the public participate in and better understand the rationale, process and concerns behind each school board decision.

- Terry Howell is a member of the Forest Grove School District Board of Directors.