Managing School Board Meetings With Angry Parents And Community Members
It's a huge challenge, having emotional, and even abusive attendees at school board meetings who try to drive their agendas, monopolize conversation, and are generally not cooperative or interested in abiding by meeting rules designed to keep order in any group setting.
Unfortunately, school board members are often ill prepared, in fact, not prepared at all to deal with these situations constructively. Sometimes they try to exert control and authority, much like teachers would in a classroom, and try to shut down conversations. At other times, they get pulled into emotional discussion, and become abusive themselves. heck. School board members and trustees are human too.
In Building Bridges Between Home And School: The Educator's/Teacher's Guide To Dealing With Emotional And Upset Parents, I've included a chapter with a number of comprehensive techniques to use with disruptive or emotional attendees at school board meetings. Of course nothing will work each time, but if use the tactics well, even if there is disruption, you, as a school board official won't create additional scorn and anger from other people at the meeting.
It's important to:
Offer options for continued discussion even if there is no longer enough time at that current meeting. Offer choices so irate speakers can at least feel heard and understood.
Try not to rely on formal authority to keep the reins in a meeting. It doesn't always work well, since irate attendees have to agree to that authority, and often they won't. It's almost impossible to force someone to stop talking, short of removal, so since you can't succeed by ordering them to stand down, you need to use other defusing tactics.
You can see examples of attempts to use authority in a school board meeting in the following video.
Can you spot anything done well, or done badly in the video above? If so, leave a comment.
Never Ever Lose Your Temper And Become Abusive
It's understandable that school board members may be challenged in keeping their tempers in the face of abuse at meetings. However, when you do, the consequences for everyone, schools, parents, children, and above all, YOU are very serious, and embarrasing. In my book there are also techniques to use to help maintain emotional self control, and yes, you can learn them. If you can't control yourself at public meetings, you do a dis-service to yourself and everyone else.
Take a look at the video below. It's short, about four minutes. You'll see a citizen making an impassioned presentation to the school board, and in fact, his presentation is neither hostile or abusive. Check out how a PH.D board member and superintendent, completely loses his composure.
Then, think: WHO loses here? Or rather,does anyone win?
In case you are wondering, there are dozens of videos shot at school board meetings, of board members acting horribly, and those videos name names, places and everything. If you want a prime way to be humiliated where you live, this is the path. If you'd rather hold yourself up to yourself and your community with dignity, then LEARN other defusing skills, self-control skills, and meeting management skills.