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Board focuses on time management

December 24, 1998|By LAURA ERNDE

If you get the urge to flip the channel on the Washington County Board of Education's televised meetings, board members said Tuesday they don't blame you.

"The perception has gotten into the community that we're not dealing well with our time," said board President Edwin Hayes, who led a discussion on the board's time management.

Newly elected board member J. Herbert Hardin said he used to find himself tuning out while watching the meetings on Antietam Cable.

"It just got to be a competition between who could make the best presentation," Hardin said. "The public is tired of this. The public is saying this is nonsense, why aren't you better structured."

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Board member Paul Bailey said when he was running for office this fall voters told him the board spent too much time talking about routine items.

"We need to ask ourselves, 'Who is our audience and what are we attempting to do,'" Bailey said.

Hayes proposed the board conduct one business meeting a month instead of two.

To shorten the meeting, the board could use a consent agenda to rubber stamp a list of items earlier discussed in a work session.

Hayes said a separate work session could be devoted to educational issues that require no immediate action by the board, such as reviewing test scores. Those meetings should be televised, he said.

Changes will not happen immediately. First, the board will have to revise its agenda policies.

Hayes will work through the details with Superintendent Herman G. Bartlett Jr. and bring proposals back to the board, he said.

Each board member gave some suggestions.

Bailey said board members need to better prepare themselves for the meetings, which can be done through e-mail and faxes.

Board member Mary Wilfong said the meetings should include concise presentations on positive things happening in the school system.

"Part of the board business we are missing is marketing," she said.

Andrew R. Humphreys said the board agenda often underestimates the time it will take to cover a topic.

But board member Doris J. Nipps said the realistic time limits are sometimes broken by impromptu discussions.

Long meetings not only irritate people watching, but also use valuable staff time, Hayes said.

Board member B. Marie Byers said the board needs to be careful it does not limit community input or gloss over important spending decisions in its efforts to streamline the meetings.

She said complete discussions are important and have shielded the school system from legal problems.

Hayes also proposed four goals for the School Board in 1999:

* Each board member will speak to at least three non-school related community groups such as service clubs or senior citizen groups.

* Each board member will write one educational article for the newspaper.

* On a monthly rotating basis, each board member will invite a commissioner to lunch in a school.

* Begin to discuss the issue of micromanagement by the School Board.

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