Update from School Board Member Laura Capps regarding school board meeting structure

school board members

Dear Santa Barbara Unified Families and Staff,

Schools are at the heart of our community and the impacts of Covid-19. During the pandemic, the decisions facing us all — teachers, staff, families and the board – are unprecedented, complex and daunting.  As the virus, safety regulations, and plans to return to in-person learning evolve, we understand how vital it is to convey information quickly, thoroughly and accurately.

We have heard valid concerns that our Board meeting discussions about Covid-19 have taken place too late at night amongst hours of public comment on other pressing topics.  I agree and apologize.  To better serve the community, we are offering the following solutions to try for the next few months, based on discussions we had during Saturday’s public retreat on Board Governance.

  • Time certain 7pm COVID reports: District leadership will deliver their regular COVID-19 Board Report at 7 pm during Board meetings so that our attendees can plan accordingly to listen in on these important updates at a reasonable hour.
  • Public Comment:  Our priority is to engage and respond to the community while allowing time for all views and sides of an issue to be heard and discussed before a vote.  In the days, weeks and months before our meetings, we hear from our stakeholders in many ways, such as via email, phone conversations, engagement meetings and surveys.  For the time being during Covid-19, Public Comment will be limited to 20 minutes on each agenda item throughout the meeting. To allow for flexibility, the time limitation can be extended by members of the Board.
  • Considerations will be made to move complex and/or controversial agenda items to their own, separate board meetings. Board study sessions, outside of regular Board meetings, allow for more time and focus to be given to important matters, outside of our regularly scheduled board meetings.

In consultation with our legal team about upholding the Brown Act, these adjustments will go into effect at our upcoming board meeting, Tuesday, September 22.  We will assess their impact over the next few months and make changes if need be.  As always, we welcome feedback and input from the community, and look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely,

Laura Capps
Board President
Santa Barbara Unified School District Board of Education