The policy around automatically ending school board meetings by 9 p.m. was the issue that pushed former chair and trustee Ian Hargreaves to resign recently.
It was no surprise perhaps that by the end of the Sept. 1 meeting, by which time Hargreaves had left, the board agreed to review the policy around adjournment time.
Trustee Janice Caton made a motion for the board’s policy committee to review Policy 4.15, specifically the part that spells out that board meetings are to end by 9 p.m. unless all members agree to extend the meeting.
Hargreaves had criticized some board members for pushing for this, suggesting some were thinking of their political futures or their own agendas.
Caton responded to some of these points when she made the motion, saying this was not the intent.
“I hope no one took offence by my motion,” she said.
She said the move does not guarantee the board will change the policy, only that they will have a discussion. Specifically, the motion suggests the board consider changing the requirement for unanimity to a requirement for a majority in order to extend a meeting.
“This motion is not saying that we actually change the policy,” she said. “We have in the past gone past nine o’clock.”
Hargreaves had noted the board brought in the policy to prevent ‘decision by exhaustion’ and that the board could reconvene the day after a meeting or a later date to finish a discussion.
Trustee Sheila McDonnell said that there had been occasions over the years where extra discussion was necessary and that it made more sense to extend a meeting if they only needed a little extra time. She also said the practice, even with the 9 p.m. policy, was to put it to a motion rather than having the outcome “predetermined by one member.”
She reiterated Caton’s point that the board may ultimately keep the current policy.
“It’s a decision that should be made by the board collectively,” she said.
Most trustees supported sending the item to the policy committee. Trustee Michelle Waite, who sits on the policy committee, said she looked into some other districts’ policies. In one case, a district holds meetings to no later than 11 p.m. but can extend time by a majority vote. Another ends meetings by 10:00 p.m., with provisions to extend by half an hour if a two-thirds majority agrees, or go even later. She said there is variety among boards when it comes to policies around when to end meetings and how they can be extended.
At the vote, vice-chair Tonia Frawley, who was chairing the meeting after Hargreaves stepped down, was the only trustee to vote in opposition, explaining it was based on the content of the motion.