WENATCHEE — A group of about 30 unmasked and vocal people disrupted the Wenatchee School Board meeting Tuesday night, causing the board to empty the boardroom and take the meeting online.
When the meeting began, some board members expressed concern about those in the room who weren’t wearing masks.
Board member Martin Barron suggested those who wished to comment must be masked according to the state mandate. Board member Julie Norton made a motion to continue the meeting and take public comment even though the majority of people in the room weren’t wearing masks.
However, board president Laura Jaecks and board member Maria Iñiguez said they were uncomfortable being in the same room with so many unmasked people. At that point, the board took a recess to decide what to do.
As this was happening, people from the audience started yelling at the board, which caused Jaecks to pound the gavel on the table for order.
After a 15-minute recess, the board, minus Jaecks and board member Michele Sandberg, came back into the room and voted to continue the meeting online while inviting those who wished to comment to do so online. After 30 minutes, the meeting restarted online.
“Public comment is always welcome and appreciated. We cannot conduct the business of the board in a disorderly fashion when folks are calling out from the audience,” Jaecks said. “I realize it’s emotional and tempting and people are only standing up for what they think is right. I can appreciate and respect that, but it’s our job to maintain an environment where we can conduct the business of the board at the same time honoring those who wish to comment.”
While several people signed up to comment, only four commented online.
Wenatchee parent Rachel Petro said she was really looking forward to testifying in person.
“I would like to encourage the board to take a look at your governance and how you operate your meetings in terms of interaction with the public. I understand you can choose not to do public comment,” Petro said. “I would encourage you to have not just public comment at the beginning of the meeting but to have public comments after a presentation on a policy. That is pretty much standard procedure in all legislative bodies.”
Jeff Ovitt said he was a little disappointed with the way the board handled things. Ovitt said the board didn’t have to push everyone out.
“You should hear them out. They are local people and tax supporters,” Ovitt said. “I just feel had the taxpaying community persevered — I want them to have a voice. Just like I have one now. Please keep the forum open and allow all people to speak, masks or not. You need to listen to them.”