Ann Arbor school board to discuss time limits at organizational meeting
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 Schools’ Board 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.
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.