LONDONDERRY — Giving the public an opportunity to speak out at school board meetings is important, officials say, but where to put that portion of the meeting on agendas may depend on the public’s behavior.

At a meeting Nov. 9, board members unanimously approved a measure to place the 30-minute public comment portion of the meeting back at the beginning.

Recent gatherings have featured public speakers at the end.

The move came after board Chairman Amy Finemore noted that the public portion of the meeting was moved to the end due to past intrusions and interruptions by those attending meetings in person.

In past months, many in the public have voiced concern about decisions made on masking and other COVID-19 protocols in the school district.

That led to meetings ending abruptly due to outcry from the audience, forcing board members to leave the meeting and also leaving agenda items untouched.

“Public comment was moved to the end of the meeting to avoid unruly meetings,” Finemore said.

She hopes for more respect from those attending upcoming meetings.

The move back to the beginning of the meeting will still call for a respectful, 30-minute time frame, giving discretion to Finemore to have it moved once again.

Board member Nancy Hendricks, newly appointed following resignations earlier this year of Michael Saucier and Jenn Ganem, said before joining the board she was watching from home and said the interruptions from the audience was detrimental to the work of the board.

Hendricks served on previous school boards for several years, saying there is a lot of work to do here.

“Disruptions have put us behind the eight ball,” Hendricks said. “We have a lot of catching up to do.”

Hendricks also stressed that the public cannot interrupt with comments during official board deliberations.

Some spoke out about having public comment at the end of the meeting, saying after the board meetings often last several hours, many in the public leave.

“You have stuck it to the parents,” said resident Al Baldasaro, also a Londonderry state representative. “The parents who care about their children come out, and you stuck public comment at the end.”

Board member Greg DePasse, also a recent appointee to the board, said he hoped by moving the public portion back to the beginning of the agenda that all can remain respectful.

“Keep it at 30 minutes, keep it respectful,” he said.

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