Portage Township School Board restricts public comment at meetings
By John Robbins Post-Tribune correspondent January 17, 2013 12:22AM
Updated: January 19, 2013 1:43PM
Limits on public input at Portage Township School Board meetings fueled emotions all the way around when the board met last week.
“I want an answer for the justification of the board wanting to get rid of the attorneys that represent the school district,” an angry Portage Township School Board member William Fekete said near the end of the board discussion.
An equally upset board president Cheryl Oprisko replied the board voted on replacement attorneys. She then gaveled the meeting closed, leading to an upset Portage resident Mike O’Hara demanding a chance to be heard.
O’Hara wanted to vent opposition to a plan the board discussed earlier requiring residents who want to speak before the board to sign in prior to a meeting — up to 48 hours in advance of a meeting at one point was discussed as possible — and give notice about the issue they want to discuss.
Notice would give board members a heads-up about the topic and give them a chance to review the matter prior to the meeting, “to avoid being blindsided,” school Superintendent Ric Frataccia said.
“It’s for monitoring and managing the board meetings. It is a public meeting of the board, not a meeting of the public for the board,” Frataccia said.
Board members Rhonda Nelson and Fekete were clearly against such a move, with Fekete saying, “With too many restrictions you wind up with the public saying, ‘They’re not going to listen to us.’ ”
Member Debra Ekdahl supported the concept, “But I’m not certain about the 48 hours.”
Uncashed checks canceled
Anyone who has a check issued by the school district more than two years ago might want to cash it soon.
The board took action to cancel the uncashed checks, nearly $18,000 worth, and deposit the balance back into the school’s general fund.
The checks were issued at least two years ago and range from a low of $3 to as high as $7,735.