“We want to hear from our stakeholders,” Dremel said. “It’s important that we gather viewpoints from members of the community so we can better understand their priorities. To help facilitate this process, we would like to offer the opportunity to have coffee and a conversation with a board member.”
The School Board, which meets just once a month, got an earful from residents on a variety of issues during a two-hour-plus public-comment period at Tuesday's meeting. Many spoke on the topic of a $13 million plan to build athletic fields over time at Batavia High School.
Others were concerned about the loss of the school's arboretum — a part of the $13 million long-range plan. Members of the public told the board that many of the existing trees were donated in memory of lost loved ones, according to an article in the Daily Herald.
At the same meeting, some parents addressed the School Board on the elimination of art and music rooms at H.C. Storm School.
According to a press release issued Thursday, the Coffee and Conversations initiative will give community members the opportunity to meet in an informal setting with up to two board members at a time. The meeting must be limited to two board members because a greater number might make a quorum and would be in violation of the Open Meetings Act.
At such meetings, "stakeholders" will have an opportunity to "discuss their perspectives on the current topics concerning Batavia Public School District 101," the release said.
Unlike the public comments segment at regular board meetings, the Coffee and Conversations sessions will allow stakeholders to speak beyond the time constraints typically faced when addressing the board in a public forum.
“We recognize and share the frustrations in trying to communicate within the confines of the Open Meetings Act,” Dremel said. “Sometimes all of your thoughts can’t be shared in a three-minute window.”
As a clarification, the three-minute window is not a requirement of the Open Meetings Act. The School Board can allow residents to speak for any length of time, but many school boards limit a speaker so that the meetings don't turn into marathons.
Dremel noted that board members who host Coffee and Conversations sessions will primarily be in listening mode rather than conducting official board business.
“When board members act in this capacity, we will not be problem solving, or doing the work of the board. We will be collecting information as individuals so we have a wider spectrum of knowledge to make informed decisions,” Dremel said.
Community members interested in setting up a Coffee and Conversations session can contact the board member with whom they would like to speak through the district’s website at: http://www.bps101.net/board-education-members.