The Blaine County School District board of trustees tried out a new process for taking public comment during its regular September meeting on Tuesday, pushing its traditional open comment period deeper into the session, while inviting constituents to speak before each agenda item.

The changes come on the recommendation of David Brinkman, leadership development specialist at the Idaho School Boards Association. In response to constituent complaints, Brinkman led a training session for the trustees last week focusing on how to better communicate with the public.

Chairman of the Board Ellen Mandeville tweaked Tuesday’s agenda to try out the new procedure. One reason for the shift: The trustees had grown frustrated by attendees speaking their piece early in the meetings, and then leaving.

“Think of public comment at the end as an invitation to spend some time with us, and see how we work,” she said.

This week, few took advantage. Two commenters spoke prior to specific agenda items, then left afterward. And when the open public comment period came just before 8:30 p.m., two regulars stayed to speak—including one to say that the board should adopt more of Brinkman’s recommendations.

Trustee Rob Clayton applauded Mandeville’s effort, but expressed concern that pushing public comment too late might inhibit it in the future.

“There are other occasions where that could occur at 10 p.m.,” Clayton said. “That’s a burden on people who want to speak.”

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