July 16, 2014 - At the first school board meeting of the new school year, Trustee Steve Hyer had an idea – fewer meetings.
"Bylaws stipulate at least one business meeting per month – I suggest we go back to one meeting per month," Hyer said at the July 14 meeting.
Meetings this past year have been too long, with too much micromanaging by board members, Hyer added.
"Two meetings a month have allowed us to be irresponsible and undisciplined," he said. "I'm not sure we're making the most expeditious use of our time, getting into the level of detail we have been."
The majority of the board rejected the idea, voting 5-2 to approve a Board of Education Meetings schedule with two a month except for December and July.
"I'm OK with two per month," said board Secretary Craig Hamilton.
Meetings this past year were long due to the board working through its new Strategic Plan and other new planning procedures, said board President Rosalie Lieblang.
"We still need two a month at least this year – shorter meetings certainly," Lieblang said.
"We all want to see shorter meetings, but I don't think we can ever have a one-meeting- a-month schedule," said board Vice President Sue Boatman.
Board Treasurer Joan Patterson said she didn't see the need to go back to one meeting a month.
"I think we need more meetings – dialogue more," Patterson said. "We need to talk, listen, and try to understand where everyone is coming from. That's sometimes difficult and takes time, but think it is necesary."
Hyer and Trustee Elizabeth Egan voted against the meeting schedule.
Egan said meetings 4-5 hours long are unfair to board members as well as members of the audience.
"I'd like to see a two-hour limit on meetings if we can do that," she said.
Trustee Cheryl McGinnis agreed a two-hour limit, with optional half hour extension, would be a good idea, and said board leadership is needed to make meetings more efficient.
"I agree we're spending way too much time at board meetings," McGinnis said. "The dialogue we have is not all beneficial – we sit here and discuss and discuss and discuss until it's a dead horse."
Everyone on the board is accountable, she said.
"We should all find ways to streamline meetings, do our homework, provide questions before meetings – not put administration in a position of not being able to come to the meeting with the information we desire," she said. "I can handle two meetings a month as long as they are efficient."
Speaking during public comment, Clarkston teacher Kathy Noble said meetings would be more efficient if board members acted more professionally without personal attacks and sarcasm, and learned to work together.
Hyer posted online to Twitter after the meeting, "I proposed one meeting a month instead of two. It went nowhere. Patterson wants to add MORE meetings. #lessmtgtimemeansgreaterefficiency."
School district attorney George Butler recommended board members "refrain from communicating about board business and policy via social media websites at all times" to avoid potential violations of the Open Meetings Act.
Phil is editor for The Clarkston News. He is a veteran of the first Iraq war, having served in the U.S. Army.