During a routine vote to approve the template for the board agenda, Payson Unified School District (PUSD) board member Shirley Dye asked to add an invocation to the list of items.
“With the pledge of allegiance, there should be an invocation, all the other board meetings have invocations,” said Dye.
The Gila County Board of Supervisors and the towns of Payson and Star Valley all have invocations before they start meetings. Often a minister, pastor or priest will ask for support and guidance for the meeting.
The other board members squirmed in their seats and scrunched up their faces.
They asked to delay any decision until they had more research.
“I am uncomfortable … but I would rather research it,” said Barbara Underwood, board president. “I don’t know what that church and school separation would say.”
“I would rather research it,” said board member Jim Quinlan.
PUSD Business Manager Kathie Manning said none of the school districts she worked at had an invocation, but one did have a moment of silence.
The Roundup asked on its Facebook page what people thought of an invocation before a school board meeting.
Almost 1,500 people viewed the question and 55 took the time to answer. Most approved of an invocation, but a few cited constitutional provisions requiring the separation of church and state.
However, London Lacy asked for something a little different:
“What about a moment to appreciate the teachers, their skills, patience, insight, wisdom, enforcement, discipline, for making a difference in the lives of our students; surely the connection between them and you in the audience, the school board and the facility itself could use words of encouragement, friendly exchanges and a blessing for all beliefs,” she wrote.