County's school board meetings are synonymous...

ANNE ARUNDEL

December 09, 1992

ANNE ARUNDEL County's school board meetings are synonymous with dread.

That is because they are not meetings. They are endurance tests. The daytime sessions start at 9 a.m. and last for 10 hours. The night meetings begin at 7:30 p.m. and routinely end at 1 or 2 a.m.

So when board member Michael Pace recently drafted a list of suggestions designed to shorten meetings, school staffers and others who regularly attend breathed a sigh of relief.

There seemed little doubt the board would approve the recommendations. Who could argue with common sense ideas like putting controversial items at the beginning of the agenda, holding executive sessions before or after meetings, imposing reasonable time limits on public testimony and discouraging repetition and long-windedness by board members themselves?

The board could argue, that's who.

Last week it voted down every one of Mr. Pace's suggestions. Why?

Well, for one thing, board members said they were afraid people wouldn't show up to participate if they knew meetings could last only eight hours during the day and 3 1/2 hours at night.

"I'm not comfortable with putting these things out there," said member Maureen Carr-York. "They might prohibit the public from coming out to say their piece."

Besides, they said, Mr. Pace's suggestions are already a part of general board policy.

Maybe so. But that didn't stop the board from running on and on again last week. After rejecting Mr. Pace's proposals, the school board meeting droned on until 6:30 p.m., a grand total of 9 1/2 hours.

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