I would like to express my deep concern about the manner in which the Lincoln-Way School Board meeting on February 13th was conducted. Prior to the meeting, I went online and researched the school board's policy about appearing before the board. I am not sure if it is simply an oversight or a purposeful omission, but once I had arrived there were several additions to the policy that was listed on the district website.
Over 350 students, parents, taxpayers, alumni, and veterans showed up to the meeting in support of keeping the JROTC program. When we inquired about the sign up sheet, we were told that only one speaker would be allowed to represent all of us. Only after intense and heated negotiations did Dr. Monica Schmitt allow just 5 of the 350 members of the public to speak.
I was shocked that Dr. Schmitt’s desire to not be "kept here all night" was held paramount to the rights of hundreds of students, taxpayers, and men and women who have served our country to address a public taxing body that spends 100 million dollars annually.
I am disappointed in the way my alma mater treated those citizens last night. The parents should be enraged as taxpayers, the students should be upset because this affects them more than anyone, but the veterans that faithfully served our country should be appalled.
I understand that the board has rules, but we are all aware that those rules are designed for the convenience of the board members and attendees; they are not in place to protect the safety of participants or to protect any privileged information. And, until moments before the meeting started, those rules had not been made readily available.
I personally watched dozens of students spend hours rehearsing their speeches in preparation for the night. They felt like they would have a chance to make their voice heard. I was deeply encouraged by these students and was proud to see so many of them willing to stand in front of hundreds of onlookers and make a passionate argument for something they love. What better education can our school offer than real life experiences like addressing their elected officials. It was almost painful to see their disappointment that just one of them was allowed to speak.
I simply asked that we be given the full 30 minutes last night with perhaps a few additional minutes. It is not every day that a board meeting attracts such a massive audience or desire for public comment. I would think as a body committed to education and serving the public that the arbitrary rules may have been relaxed. It was made clear to me that Dr. Schmitt was not interested in hearing what those 350 people had to say last night when she attempted to limit us to one speaker, but I would have assumed that she may have at least had the decency to appear as if she were interested in our opinions.