For years now, residents who wish to speak before the school board have been improperly informed that they may not express opinions or ask questions about district personnel. At the beginning of the public comment period, board president Cindy Babcock-Deutsch has read a misleading statement to the effect that personnel matters may only be discussed in closed sessions and only after matters have been referred to the Superintendent of Schools via the proper channels. While this may apply to board members it says nothing about residents may say when addressing the board. As a practical matter the board rarely responds to residents who come before the board to speak during the public comment period.
Since July I have been challenging Cindy Babcock-Deutsch to back up her repeated and false claims that there is a law the prohibits speakers criticizing district personnel during the public comment period. I have been repeatedly lied to by Cindy Babcock-Deutsch on this issue. At the board meeting on October 7th, 2008 Cindy Babcock-Deutsch sought to prevent me from making remarks critical of Superintendent Richard Organisciak. She repeatedly interrupted me and then, in middle of my remarks, she gaveled the meeting to a close and the board began to exit the meeting room while I was still talking.
Back in October I wrote:
…the primary purpose of the District’s restrictions on free speech is to prevent criticism of the administration and to cover up incidents of malfeasance by teachers and staff. Whatever good may come from protecting the identity of hard-working school teachers and staff, this is outweighed by the public’s right to know when staff are engaged in illegal, unethical or improper behavior. Too often this supposed concern for the privacy of teachers and staff has been used as a cover to hush up sexual improprieties, racial incidents, violence and otherwise use public board meetings a public relations platform rather than an opportunity for the community to express genuine concern over problems and failures within the district.