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Dear PPCS Families,

Welcome spring! I hope you are enjoying the longer days, sunny weather, and – for many of us – more regular schedules. I’m writing to update you on current PPCS school board priorities and address questions about board communication.

Board Priorities —

  1. Election Time: Palouse Prairie’s board is elected and each board member serves one or more three-year terms. This year, there are four board seats in play, and we hope you’ll consider running. There is more information below from our intrepid Election Coordinator, Jeff Lonneker (jlonneker@palouseprairieschool.org)
  1. Policy Updates: This is not the most glamorous task, but it is one of the most important functions of a school board — we ensure that our school policies are up-to-date so that when operational questions arise, the school has clear and consistent guardrails for decisions. The PPCS board tackles policies each month, because we are always receiving updates from the state, and it is good practice to continually review and revise our school policies. Lauren Crawford, our Vice Chair, is our primary Policy Wrangler, along with Debbie Berkana, PPCS’s wonderful business manager.
  1. Executive Director Evaluation: One of our critical roles is to supervise Ms. Jeneille Branen who serves as both our school system’s superintendent and principal! We have a formal evaluation process at least once a year, using school achievement data, feedback from families and staff, and other operational measures.
  1. Budgeting for 2021-22 School Year: The school board has fiduciary responsibility for the school so we spend time with the budget each month. As we finish this school year and look to the next, we will be working closely with Debbie and Jeneille to develop and approve a budget for next year.
  1. Playground Fundraising: We are so close to finishing our school’s beautiful and extra fun nature-based playground. Keep your eyes out for a spring fundraising push to raise the final $25,000 that we need to install swings, slides, a basketball court, and landscaping this summer.

Board Mysteries, Solved!

Why can’t I contribute during school board meetings?

If you’ve ever observed a board meeting, you might have felt frustrated that you couldn’t simply jump in and talk things over with the board. School boards operate using Idaho’s Open Meeting Law, which has very specific requirements. One requirement is that the board post our agenda 48 hours in advance and not deviate from that posted agenda.

Open meeting law also requires that meetings are always open to public observation. This means we conduct our business transparently and in public view, but our meetings are not “open meetings,” in which everyone can chime in. The board is asked not to respond directly to public comment during the meeting (unless the topic is already on the posted agenda). This prevents situations in which we end up in a discussion that we did not properly post 48 hours in advance, as legally required.

As I was researching this topic, I learned that school systems are not required to include time for public comment during school board meetings. However, the Palouse Prairie board has always built public comment periods into our agendas so that we can hear from our community, either in writing (this year) or via brief remarks. In the past, public comments were very rare, but we have been thrilled to hear from more of you over the last year.

So, if you have comments for the board, your best bet for now is to put them in writing — an email or a letter — and send them my way (jbearman@palouseprairieschool.org). These comments are always read in full by all members of the board and school leadership, unless their content is operational (eg: issues with teachers or specific school situations) and more appropriate for the school’s staff leadership, in which case I will respond to you to discuss next steps.

As we start to think about transitioning back to hearing public comments directly at the beginning of our meetings, we are developing a process for members of the public to sign up in advance if they would like to make a public comment. Written comments will always be welcome too.

Our next school board meeting is Monday, April 26 at 6:00 pm. The agenda will be posted 48 hours prior to our meeting at the school building and on our website: https://palouseprairieschool.org/school-board/.

All the best,

Jessica Bearman

PPCS Board Chair, on behalf of the PPCS Board of Directors


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