Attending Sioux Falls School Board Meetings and Commenting on the Record

By Natalie Micheel

Any resident or parent/guardian a child in the Sioux Falls School district has the right to attend a School Board meeting and make a comment. The comments will be a time limited five minute statement that you read into the record. The board is not required to make a comment back, but your comments will be on the record, and your attention to the board’s workings is a valuable step in forming relationships and holding the elected members accountable.

The meetings are on the second and fourth Mondays of the month, at 5:30pm at IPC.

An individual wishing to address the Board on a District-related issue which is not on the agenda must sign up prior to the start of the meeting with the Business Manager or designee and give his/her name, address, and topic about which the person wishes to speak.

It is a good idea to attend a board meeting to observe before speaking at a meeting.

The speaker is limited to five minutes regardless of the number of subjects the person wishes to cover. If multiple individuals sign up to speak on the same topic that is not an agenda item, total testimony on the topic shall be limited to 15 minutes per side of the issue as determined by the President.

In order to avoid being limited in how many folks can have a say due to a limit of 15 minutes per side of a single issue, like “Common Core”, you might consider choosing very specific topics and communicating that here, so a variety of topics are covered and the school board hears a variety of concerns.

Here is a partial list of specific topics related to Common Core that you might use as your “topic” when registering prior to the meeting’s start as well as to help you keep your comments focused.

  • Educating on what “Common Core is”.
  • Concern that “Common Core” was funded and implemented without parent advisory meetings
  • Concerns about Investigations math program
  • 90 minute literacy blocks (Cost, effectiveness, monitoring to see if worth the investment)
  • Loss of a recess (Is this Common Core related? I don’t know) – if your child is one of the kids down a recess.
  • Developmental appropriateness of a particular topic/standards/etc.
  • Loss of local control
  • ELA standards, text selections, etc.
  • Math standards
  • Assessments
  • Data Tracking/ STARS Database
  • FERPA – data security, district privacy policy
  • New Report Cards
  • No spelling tests
  • Emphasis on Informational/Non-fiction texts over Fiction

There are of course many more specific topics you could choose to speak on. Try to speak on something you have experience with, a real specific concern about and/or a passion about, so that you can be specific, knowledgeable and effective. Be respectful, have your intent as “education”, “clarification”, “concern”.

You will want to have your commentary prepared and written down. You will read it into the record. The board members may or may not be actively listening, but please do not be concerned or upset, your comments are still going into the record. Alternatively, you can memorize your commentary, but still bring in a bulleted list of high points, in case you lose your place. Either way, you should practice your piece at home, practice it in the mirror, practice it in front of another person, practice it in an environment that has noise and distractions.

Five minutes goes very quickly, so you will want to be very succinct in your commentary. I recommend 400 – 500 words on a single topic, but it depends on how quickly you speak, especially when in the spot light. Time yourself.  If you have more than one topic you are passionate about, you can comment in a future school board meeting.

This article is written specific to the Sioux Falls School District, but the main premise is true for most school boards. For all districts, but especially for districts that do not audio/video record meetings, it is a good idea to take enough copies of your statement, with documentation if it applies to your statement, to hand to each school board member and any other school personnel in attendance. Check with your local school for rules regarding public comment about a subject that is not on the agenda. And as always, be respectful to the board with your comments. We are finding that many school board members have not been told of all the tentacles of the Common Core. 

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