Margaret Raymond Driscoll is a nine-year Melrose School Committee member who is passionate about excellent teaching and learning for all public school students, and considers it a privilege to collaborate with others who share that passion. You can also follow her on Twitter at @MargaretDrisc. Just to be clear - opinions expressed here do not represent those of the Melrose Public Schools, the Melrose School Committee, or the Massachusetts Association of School Business Officials - they are hers alone.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

How Does the School Committee Set Agendas?

Thought it might be helpful for folks who may want to know more about School Committee work to get a peek into Committee agendas, so here’s a quick guide:

Policy BEDB: Agendas and Relevant Materials dictates how our meetings are crafted (http://tinyurl.com/l25lw6v). As the policy states, “The conduct of public business should proceed with order and efficiency with the hearing of reports, action upon the recommendations of the Superintendent, and adoption of resolutions or formal policies as proposed by the members themselves.” The Committee By-Laws, which can be found here: http://tinyurl.com/kew6uks, explain in what order agenda items appear and other useful information about our operations.

The goal for each and every meeting is to be intentional, and one key way to accomplish that goal is to focus all meeting agendas on items that are required and/or lead to actions designed to improve student outcomes. The Committee Chair prepares a Rolling Agenda on a regular basis that includes items traditionally requiring votes and/or presentation/discussion. (They are posted on our “Agendas” page.) State law dictates some votes that Committees must take (e.g. whether or not to participate in School Choice), and many other votes are taken as part of regular business in order to approve, disapprove, or change the Supt.’s actions (e.g. we vote the Monthly Budget Summary as confirmation of our belief that school monies are, given the report provided, within keeping of our approved budget and budget process; if we don’t agree, we vote not to approve). Items for presentation and potential discussion include things like MCAS results or an update on summer programming. Most of these items appear each year on our agendas, and the Chair assigns them to the appropriate agenda category or subcommittee, at the appropriate time, which starts to build out a framework for each meeting.

Separately, for each meeting, subcommittee chairmen may recommend additional agenda items, along with the amount of time they estimate each agenda item to take, to the Chair. The Chair also asks the Supt. to determine how long she will need for her Announcements, and estimates how much time she expects to be needed for the Consent Agenda, the Chair’s Announcements, the Report of the Student Representatives, and Public Comment. Then she assembles all items and slots them in, trying to balance the agendas such that required approvals are completed on a timely basis, meetings don’t last too late at night, presenters don’t have to come too frequently (out of respect for their time), etc. She may delay some items if they aren’t urgent or slot new items in as they come up (e.g. if a law is enacted that requires a new policy implementation). 

Executive Sessions are a separate part of a meeting that is not held in public, and our Committee usually holds them after a regularly scheduled meeting. There are ten reasons for adjourning to Executive Session and any item discussed therein must pertain to one of those reasons (like negotiations with one of our unions). The Chair organizes the agendas for Executive Sessions.

Our agendas and materials are posted on the School Committee portion of the melroseschools.com website under “IQM2 Meeting Portal” by the Committee Assistant, Mrs. Hogan. After meeting minutes are approved, she posts those next to each respective meeting. 

We look forward to many informative and thoughtful meetings this year and hope you will let us know if you have questions about them. Thanks for following the work of the schools and the Committee!