The U.S. Supreme Court has termed the American school board 'a most vital civic institution for the preservation of a democratic system of government.' Flashpoints of the democratic process itself, school board meetings can be loud, messy and slow. Is it possible to bring order to these meetings while keeping them representative and participatory? The answer is a resounding 'yes.' Running a smooth, purposeful school board meeting is an acquired skill. Follow these tips (adapted from the Georgia School Board Association) to harness the energy and ideas in the room to get business done.
Before the MeetingTwo principles steer the ship at all phases of the meeting preparation, execution and follow-up. The first: There shall be no surprises. The second: Chaotic discussions cannot waylay the business of the meeting. These rules require considerable planning in advance of the meeting: both posting ground rules and making the agenda available.
Determine the Post Procedural Policies
- Discussion of conflicts cannot continue after a majority vote has settled the matter.
- Input on school board matters by all concerned members of the public shall be limited to 30 minutes.
- Any one board member may address any one motion item no more than two times.
- 'New Business' items will be limited to those posted on the agenda. Anyone can submit agenda items to the Chair up to five days before each meeting. Any issues raised during the meeting will be discussed at the following meeting. (Some state laws prohibit this rule.)
- Members of the public must sign up in advance if they wish to speak, stating what they'll speak on.
- The meeting will not include complaints about school personnel; such discussion should be taken privately to local administrators.
- Only board members may make or amend a motion; members of the public may not do so.
- The Superintendent also may not make or amend a motion.
Set the Agenda and Post It Publicly
Facilitate Contact Before the Meeting