Anchorage School Board votes to prioritize student testimony at meetings

The Anchorage School Board on Tuesday unanimously voted to give students priority during public testimony at board meetings.

School board meetings have two time slots set aside for broad public testimony, the first an hour shortly after the beginning of the meeting and the second toward the end of the meeting. The change will allow students to testify during the first hour.

School board meetings typically take place Tuesday nights and go past 9 p.m.

School board president Margo Bellamy said board member Carl Jacobs spearheaded the initiative. Jacobs said the memorandum is a way to provide “reasonable access” for all district students.

“I do not consider it reasonable that an ASD student would have to wait until after 9 p.m. on a school night to testify in front of the board which makes decisions on their academic experience,” Jacobs said at the meeting.

Before he joined the rest of the school board in voting for the change, member Andy Holleman said, “I do think we have to be concerned about creating different classes of testifiers, but students are a special group.”

“I think it’s reasonable to prioritize our kids,” Holleman said.

The board will also make special seating available to encourage students to participate, with “an unobstructed view of the dais” where school board members sit, according to the new policy.