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Posted on Wed, Jan 18, 2012 : 9:28 a.m.

Ann Arbor school board to discuss time limits at organizational meeting

By Danielle Arndt

How late is too late for a school board vote? That question likely will be part of a discussion Wednesday by the Ann Arbor Public SchoolsBoard of Education.

The topic of time limits is again on the agenda for the board’s annual organizational meeting, which will take place at 7 p.m. at the Ann Arbor District Library.


Deb Mexicotte

Board President Deb Mexicotte said this issue has been talked about before, but the public recently raised additional concerns.

She explained after the December board meeting, during which administrator raises were approved at about 1:45 a.m. the next morning, questions came up about the board’s ability to function at that time.

“We certainly don’t want the public perception to be we’re too tired,” she said. “If we were too tired, we would have decided to do something differently. But the fact of the matter is, boards have gone until 1:30 a.m. before this board and they will go to 1:30 a.m. after this board — unless we decide to do something differently as far as policy.”

The board has discussed a variety of options in the past, such as limiting the number of minutes per agenda item, limiting the number of minutes or times a trustee can talk and limiting public comment. None of the options appeal to the majority of trustees.

Trustee Glenn Nelson said he would not be in favor of adopting any “overly rigid rules,” but he would be agreeable to using those parliamentary procedures the board has at its disposal more often, for example, calling the question.

“If we remind ourselves in a kind way that this is for business purposes … then I shouldn’t be thinking, ‘They don’t want to hear me. They’re being mean,’” Nelson said. “Because really it has nothing to do with me but with how much I’m yammering on.”

He said the trustees, himself included, must be better at recognizing when the discussion is no longer moving the issue forward. He said it may be beneficial to table more topics for future meetings, if the discussion becomes stagnant or circular.

A new electronic tool called BoardDocs to be weighed at Wednesday’s meeting also may prove helpful with time management, said Trustee Christine Stead. But she added the biggest component is really just self-discipline.

“If you feel you’ve already made a point, even if you really want to say it again, maybe try to refrain,” Stead said.

Board Secretary Andy Thomas said it is probably not necessary for every board member to thank the presenters for their time and efforts.

“Perhaps in instances like that the president can speak on behalf of the board and give a ‘good job,’ as well as for various accolades,” he said.

Thomas also said the difficulty in trying to shorten or limit discussion is the trustees all are elected officials and often “have a feeling or a need to let the public know what our thought processes are.”

The Board of Education additionally will elect new officers and tackle the question of whether or not to switch to six-year terms in light of the new election law.

Nelson, Stead and Thomas do not anticipate any major changes in leadership.

"I don’t see any evidence of an organized shift of positions because of unhappiness or anything," Nelson said. "I think if there is, it will be the ordinary evolution of interest and people wanting to try different board experiences."

To view a complete agenda, visit the Ann Arbor Public Schools website or click here.

Staff reporter Danielle Arndt covers K-12 education for Follow her on Twitter @DanielleArndt or email her at



Thu, Jan 19, 2012 : 5:14 p.m.

I would certainly be in favor of a policy "limiting the number of minutes or times a trustee can talk...". There are already pretty strict limits on public commentary, but I have seen no sign of any that limit trustees' "yammering on". And, they do. Frequently. Also, and I cannot be the only one, I think the audio quality of the BoE broadcasts on Comcast are awful. While this is not necessarily a BoE issue, it makes watching/listening to the meetings difficult at best, and painful at worst. Or perhaps it is intentional, in order to get people not to watch...? ;-)


Thu, Jan 19, 2012 : 1:18 a.m.

Its not about time, its about questionable decisions being made.


Wed, Jan 18, 2012 : 8:10 p.m.

Maybe Deb Mexicotte should get off of the phone.............


Wed, Jan 18, 2012 : 6:11 p.m.

It would be a very optimal public relations move to make sure the BOE doesn't meet and decide things until the wee hours of the morning, especially related to money. Here's a thought, start earlier, like at 5pm.


Wed, Jan 18, 2012 : 4:40 p.m.

Point of order...parlimentary rules are out dated and ignored. I was at the last meeting about the hiring/raises and facilities maintenance contract discussion. I have never seen a more arogant bunch in my life. It did'nt matter if there was money or not, the super-intendant was going to spend what she deemed acceptable based on comparable salaries. She hired them against board practices, now we have a new norm. Teachers shouldnt have their pay comprised over administrative rules.

Susie Q

Wed, Jan 18, 2012 : 4:21 p.m.

I have been at meetings that lasted into the 1-3 am time period, and I can guarantee you that NO ONE is doing their best thinking at that hour unless they are possibly accustomed to working the third shift (11 pm - 7 am). When I read that the Board voted on raises for several administrators at Balas at 2 am I was appalled that a vote would be taken at that hour for several is that it appears sneaky to deal with an issue like that in the dead of night after it had already been "tabled" for another meeting and second, as I stated above, it was too important an issue to be resolvedd when everyone is tired and ready to go home.


Wed, Jan 18, 2012 : 4:11 p.m.

Is the poll referring to time limits for speakers or time limits for length of meeting? Seems like two different things.


Thu, Jan 19, 2012 : 4:24 a.m.

Public comments to the BoE are already time limited, both per speaker and overall. To do any good, you must also limit the time each board member and presenter speaks to keep the meeting to a reasonable length.

Danielle Arndt

Wed, Jan 18, 2012 : 4:25 p.m.

A fair question. We are interested in knowing generally how people feel about the board limiting themselves — and that could be in any way referenced in the article, from a time limit on the meetings as a whole to a set number of minutes for each topic or trustee. So this would not refer to public comments being limited. If you have a specific suggestion for how you think limits would be best set, we'd like to hear that too. Please feel free to make those comments down here. Thanks for your question!


Wed, Jan 18, 2012 : 3:53 p.m.

The real outrage was that the board said they would NOT vote on the raise issue, and then brought it back after many people had left the board meeting and at a very late hour. This was underhanded and sneaky. I don't care how long the board meetings are as long as they are conducted in an open and fair manner. The board has lost my trust and I will vote for better representation in the next election.


Wed, Jan 18, 2012 : 4:12 p.m.

I wish this would have been addressed in the article.


Wed, Jan 18, 2012 : 2:37 p.m.

"yammering on." Perfect description of most public meetings.