Open Meeting NYCLU Response

In a May 10,2021 email correspondence to the Board of Education  the New York Civil Liberties Union criticized the Board of Education’s failure to provide for “public comment periods” during the course of Zoom Board meetings held during the pandemic; the Board of Education’s response is provided below:

Dear Ms. Solis:

The Board of Education is in receipt of your recent email correspondence taking issue with the Board’s failure to provide for a “public comment” period during the course of its pandemic- induced Zoom Board meetings. 

As you know, under the Open Meetings Law there is no dictate that public comment periods be installed by governmental bodies; the premise adopted by the law being that municipal board meetings are to accessed by the public but are not to be considered as “public meetings” (to the extent there must be the availability of the public to comment (through input periods)). Nevertheless, the CI Board of Education has always provided for the opportunity of the residents of the District to express their opinions; inquire regarding Board issues; and to participate as interested parties in the affairs of the District through public comment periods.

In fact, during the initial stages of the COVID-19 pandemic the Board continued to meet in-person and entertained public expression during its meetings. When, however, virus infection rates skyrocketed within the community the Board under the guidance of Executive Orders of the Governor of the State of New York conducted  virtual Board meetings (via Zoom); during these meetings the technological  means of providing for public input was impaired to the degree it was determined best to await a return to in-person meetings ( in fact, to commence next month) to resume the tradition of availing the  public the opportunity to provide input.

As a practical matter public input did continue even during the era of the pandemic caused virtual meetings; following each virtual meeting Supt. Dungee stayed on-line to entertain a review of any issue/ matter desired to be raised by a member of the community; further she participated in “building forums” to provide for parental access to the District.

In further accommodating the community the Board has continued to  provide a Spanish translator at all of its Board meeting; in-person and virtual; the District’s website provides for up-to-date and comprehensive information on all matters of interest to parents and the community-at-large. In addition, Supt. Dungee and her administration in unprecedented fashion have been accessible to one and all day-to-day to discuss any concern of a District resident; she has truly established a transparency that affords our community with accountability; responsiveness and immediacy with regard to any issue a community member wishes to broach.

Accordingly, your expressed contention that the Board has failed to meet a legal or extra-legal mandate in not providing for public input during its Zoom meetings is believed to be not warranted. And the Board of Education looks forward to a return to the normalcy of in-person meetings; that normalcy to include the providing of public input within its meeting agenda.

 

Respectfully submitted,
Board of Education
Central Islip UFSD

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