SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Springfield’s Board of Education will make changes to the way it takes public comment at future meetings.
The announcement came during Tuesday’s meeting: Public comments will be limited to ten speakers per meeting in the future.
Each speaker will need to sign up ahead of time, and each will have three minutes to voice concerns or ask questions.
The changes have come after several marathon meetings in recent months. On Tuesday, the meeting lasted nearly four hours, with 28 people signing up to speak.
Hostility among speakers also continues to increase, with many criticizing the ability of the board to address concerns over curriculum and COVID-19 protocols.
“I have never seen parents so upset…I have never ever, ever seen anything like what we’ve got out here today,” said speaker Pat Scott.
Comments made by speakers at Tuesday’s meeting ranged from district-wide masking and quarantine requirements to Critical Race Theory, and the district’s new bussing schedule.
These issues have led to dozens of parents and community members signing up to address the Board.
“How embarrassing to have such an incompetent school board, minus one person,” said Claire Lorance, who has pulled her kids out of SPS for requiring students to wear masks.
Long-time attendee Carl Herd voiced concerns about the changes, stating, “Committee reports seem to say that public input is not wanted or needed.”
The more than 20 people who signed up to speak also included a man from Alabama named Christopher Key.
“When you guys tell these students, put on that mask, you have now opened up yourself to a civil lawsuit, individually, said Key. “Your pension, your retirement, will all be taken away, guys, and I hope y’all can live with that.”
Key calls himself the “vaccine police” and has made local headlines this week for confronting pharmacists at a local Walmart, as well as confronting CoxHealth CEO Steve Edwards.
SPS says that in the future, board members need more time to discuss business and items on each agenda, as well as hear from staff on issues regarding the district’s strategic plan.
“By allowing more time for business and strategic discussions, the board is able to follow up with questions, have internal dialogue among themselves about where we go from here as a district, says SPS Director of Communications Stephen Hall. “That’s very important to conducting the business of the school district.”
The board meeting’s structure is also changing, according to Hall. Previously, speakers could speak about items listed on the agenda at the beginning of the meeting, and speakers requesting public comment involving SPS would speak towards the end.
Hall says the two opportunities will now be combined into one, allowing for ten speakers per meeting.
Despite more limitations on in-person comments, the district says it’s created more virtual options for voicing concerns and asking questions.
Hall says those who may miss out on speaking in person may now communicate directly with board members through email.
“Whether you’re able to speak in public or not, we welcome your feedback. You can certainly submit your comments in writing to that email. That will be reviewed by all of our board members in advance of the meeting, and that will be important as they consider all of the feedback as well,” says Hall.
Sign-ups for speaking at future meetings will open at 8 a.m. the Monday before each meeting and will close at noon the Tuesday of each meeting.
For more information on the change and to submit an email to the Springfield Board of Education, click here.