School Board may alter meetings

Published: Thursday, January 9, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 8, 2003 at 11:02 p.m.
The Alachua County School Board wants to change the way it takes care of business in the new year.
During a four-hour workshop on Wednesday, board members discussed moving their meeting time from 7 p.m. to 6 p.m., which would coincide with other school boards in the state and reduce the long hours worked by staff members.
In addition, board members want to reduce the time for individual public comment from five minutes to three minutes and to reduce the time for public comment on nonspecific issues to 15 minutes at the beginning of the meeting and also allow time at the end of the meeting. Residents would instead be invited to talk about specific agenda items when the board discusses them during the meeting, as well as at the end of the meeting.
"This way, we have streamlined the meeting process and input from the public," said board member Tina Turner during the meeting held inside the Matheson Museum library.
"This makes the public more a part of the process when they speak to specific items," board member Wes Eubank said. "That's when we want to hear from them."
Those changes will most likely take effect Feb. 18, after board members have a chance to vote on the new policies.
Eubank and Turner were elected last fall, along with former Assistant Superintendent Ginger Childs. They join board Chairwoman Jeannine Cawthon and board member Barbara Sharpe.
The board was guided through the discussions by Sharon Hartsell, a consultant with the Florida School Boards Association.
Eubank suggested the board establish an informal meeting modeled after the one used by the Alachua County Commission. At their monthly meeting, commissioners casually discuss issues without following an agenda, allowing time for feedback and consensus-building before their formal biweekly meetings, Eubank said.
"That kind of meeting is most enthusiastically used when there's a major change in the leadership team and that's what you've got," said Hartsell, referring to the new board's makeup.
In supporting the idea, Childs said she would like to bring up a number of issues, but is unsure of the proper forum. Creating an informal meeting, the first of which is tentatively scheduled for Jan. 28, would help alleviate that problem.
Initially surprised by the idea, Superintendent Mary Chambers said, "If we've already got a plan set up or things in the making, you'll be out there spinning your wheels."
Turner backed her fellow board members. "It would be the best opportunity to tell you how we are feeling as representatives of the public and would enhance the relationship between us," Turner said.

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