Board limits meeting length

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORESanta Anita opens winter meet Saturday with loaded card Now meetings of the Acton-Agua Dulce Unified School District will end promptly at 10 p.m. Melissa Harnett, board president, broke the news like a disclaimer at the start of Thursday’s night’s meeting. She explained, to what can be a raucous bunch of regulars, that it’s too difficult to think clearly past that time after working all day. So whatever business isn’t finished during the regularly scheduled meetings will be continued to another day. It was 10:04 p.m. when their meeting adjourned under this new rule. And it was met with a round of applause. “We traditionally go past the midnight hour, and it’s been a problem for a while,” Harnett said. “We want to hear from everyone, but everyone starts to get loopy, and it becomes a free-for-all.” With one quick glance at an agenda, school board members can predict whether meetings will run into overtime. Boundary changes, diversity issues and athletic teams are among the hot topics that drive residents to attend these meetings, and many board members know in advance to brace for late nights. ACTON – They say meetings can be brutal. Those who serve on school boards know that all too well, especially when the clock strikes midnight and there’s no end in sight to the agenda or the people who want to be heard. Some willingly accept these late nights as part of the job. And some audience members – the few who regularly attend – appear to truly enjoy discussing every detail of every agenda item down to microscopic proportions. But after what has seemed like a tradition for meetings to stretch into the wee hours, one bleary-eyed school board has finally had enough. But sometimes, it’s a mundane issue – such as the height of basketball hoops on the school playground – that can fill a room. Joan MacGregor recalled a late night meeting of the Sulphur Springs School District board when the room was packed with parents, and the discussion was all about the net. She’s now on the board of trustees for College of the Canyons. “I was so discouraged because the meeting before that, we discussed curriculum,” she said. “But everyone came out for the height of basketball hoops on the playground.” Late-nighters were routine a few years ago for the William S. Hart Union High School District’s school board. Although they still happen from time to time, today the meetings end by 10:30 p.m. Back then, though, meetings regularly adjourned around 1 a.m., leaving board member Gloria Mercado-Fortine struggling to catch some sleep before her alarm clock sounded at 4 a.m. for work. On those nights, she sometimes wondered whether she should even bother with sleep. “The bottom line is board members are politicians, and some of them have a lot of hot air and love to hear themselves talk,” she said. Mercado-Fortine said most of the board members have full-time jobs and that on meeting nights, some are putting in 18-hour days. Working that long doesn’t allow for effective decision-making, she said. Overall, board members said there are ways to prevent long meetings, from having a president who stays on topic to limiting the number of items to discuss and closely guarding the three-minute rule for public comment. Still, some things are out of their control. Earthquake aftershocks. Power outages. Celebrities and TV news crews arriving unannounced. The Newhall School District has a 9:30 p.m. rule at board meetings. At that time, the president decides what to finish and what to table to the next meeting, so the night doesn’t drag into day. “We don’t want it to go past 10:30 p.m., because everyone is tired from work,” Shapiro said. News about Acton’s new 10 p.m. rule was a hit with Lesa Lotito. The 43-year-old is a regular at the school board meetings and has grown used to the late nights they involve. “I’ve been here at many late night meetings,” she said. “And that’s how it’s always been.” Sue Doyle, (661) 257-5254 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img

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