The Beloit School Board at its Tuesday meeting discussed how to include public input into its decision whether to continue using school resource officers in the district. The district’s current contract for officers is set to expire July 31 after the current school year.
After discussion, board member Amiee Leavy made a motion to schedule a community listening session on the memorandum of understanding between the school district and the Beloit Police Department between the third week of February and the third week of March, and board member Allison Semrau seconded it.
Leavy, board President Megan Miller, Treasurer Gregg Schneider, member Joyce Ruff and Semrau voted in favor of the motion. Vice President Sean Leavy voted against it.
Board member Spencer Anderson was absent.
The discussion on public input kicked off with Amiee Leavy saying it would be appropriate to have listening sessions with the community once a term or quarter so the community can stay engaged with the district. She said the dates should be established on an annual basis and the topics announced as the date approaches.
“I don’t fear we will ever run out of topics that our community would like to share their opinion on, which is a great thing,” she said.
However, Sean Leavy raised some concerns about reining in the time so meetings don’t go all night and that they remain productive. He said the board shouldn’t make decisions more difficult by the forum in which they are discussed. Conversations that are poorly handled can have disastrous outcomes in the community. He said some of the district’s previous hearings and forums have all been at crisis points.
He said there is already a process where issues are discussed in committee and then there is public comment time before the board decision. For items of higher interest, Sean Leavy said the board president speaking with the media prior to the committee meetings and alerting the community of public comment opportunities during the regular meetings might be sufficient. The regular pattern of meetings, he said, is important so the conversation is not so reactionary and conversations centers around the education of children.
Sean Leavy also worried the proposed resource officer learning session could be held too close in time to a previously planned district strategic planning meeting.
Semrau said there is room for both types of listening sessions because strategic planning and resource officers are totally separate issues. She said the community needs to have some sort of forum to raise its questions and concerns.
Miller said any listening session will have an educational piece, an open floor for people to speak and a determined course of follow-up.
Miller said the public has expressed some interest in meetings on Sunday afternoons when many people are free to attend.
Keyser said the current contract for resource officers would renew if no action is taken in March.
There are three resource officers that the Beloit Police Department provides to the Beloit School District. According to the memorandum of understanding between the police department and the school cistrict, the resource officer program cost the district $256,985 for the 2020-21 school year.