Dissatisfied with public access to board members and board meetings, Pittsburgh Public Schools board member Mark Brentley Sr. tonight proposed a public access system that would include expanded voicemail, meeting in a larger room and having a court stenographer.
"We should not do anything that would hinder the public from getting information," he said.
His motion was defeated without any votes in favor although some abstained. Some board members wanted time to see how much the proposal would cost, get input from administration as to whether some of the ideas were already being done or were practical, and discuss it at a committee meeting rather than the legislative meeting.
Mr. Brentley wanted to set up a 24-hour voicemail system that would list the time, date and location of monthly meetings and whether such meetings had opportunities for public comment.
He also wanted a voicemail system for which a taxpayer could leave a message for a board member by pressing a button.
He called for all public meetings to be in Conference Room A, which is a large room. Some of the board meetings, such as various committees, are conducted in a small room with limited public seating.
He wanted all entrance and hall doors on the second floor unlocked to improve access to the building for public meetings.
A court stenographer would make transcripts of all meetings. The transcripts would be available to the public at a flat rate of $10.
Board member Theresa Colaizzi said that she thinks voice mail is "very cold" and noted the public can call a board employee who takes messages for board members and resolves some problems.
Board member Floyd McCrea called for a fiscal note. "In this time of budget shortfalls, we can't afford to add anything to our budget," he said.
Board member Regina Holley said she agrees with having more public access, but said, "I really think it's important for us to hear from the staff."
Education writer Eleanor Chute: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1955.