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Medford schools hold town hall meeting

MEDFORD — The School Board will hold a town-hall meeting tonight, reviving a practice that was adopted during controversy over a proposal to close down two elementary schools.

The meeting isn't expected to raise topics as emotionally charged as the closure of schools, but it will focus on educational issues related to the school district.

"We have no agenda or particular list of topics," said School Board President Eric Dziura. "We are there for people to bring up whatever they'd like to discuss."

"It's an opportunity for us to have a two-way dialogue with the community," Dziura said.

Some community members have complained that the public comment period at bimonthly school board meetings is intimidating and doesn't allow people to promptly obtain answers to questions. The comment period has a three-minute limit for each speaker, and school board members do not respond in the public forum.

Dziura said the town-hall meetings provide an outlet for school board members and the public to have a back-and-forth discussion, which board members found enriching during two town hall meetings last year.

School board members plan to begin holding the meetings biannually as a way to foster more interaction with the community.

Steve Plunk, father of a high school senior, first proposed that the school board hold town hall meetings after participating in Medford City Council town halls.

His suggestion came in late 2007 when school district employees and community members were embattled over the fate of Jackson and Roosevelt elementary schools.

The school district, concerned about budget constraints, initially favored closing the nearly 100-year-old schools to save on the cost of having to remodel or reconstruct them according to current building codes.

Opposition to the proposal from the community convinced the school board to save the schools.

They are under construction and are expected to reopen in early 2010.

Reach reporter Paris Achen at 541-776-4459 or pachen@mailtribune.com.