Board votes to meet at night

January 12, 1995|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,Sun Staff Writer

The county school board has a new president, a new member, and now a new meeting time -- a change supporters hope will make it easier for parents to attend.

The president is Ann M. Ballard. Former Hampstead Town Council member Gary V. Bauer, elected in November, provided the majority vote to switch to evening meetings -- 4 p.m. for PTC routine business and 7:30 p.m. for the classroom issues that usually interest parents. The meeting day will remain the same -- the second Wednesday of every month.

Supporters say that parents won't have to take time off from jobs to attend most school board meetings, which used to begin at 9 a.m. The new schedule starts with the Feb. 8 meeting and will continue at least through May.

"I don't have a preconceived notion of how many people will show up, but my feeling is it is an opportunity for people to attend," member C. Scott Stone said.

Kathleen Hamblet, a Winfield parent who ran unsuccessfully for school board, urged the board to broadcast the change loudly to parents.

"Make them know this is what you're doing, that you're doing it for them," she said. "Take out a full-page ad, if that's what it takes. There are people out there who will come. You really have to go that extra 10 steps to make them feel welcome."

Mr. Stone included a promise to push for night meetings when he campaigned two years ago.

Board member Joseph D. Mish and Mr. Bauer also supported the concept.

Before Mr. Bauer replaced board member John D. Myers, the majority of the five-member board resisted regular night meetings, saying experience showed that fewer parents and students attend when meetings are at night.

But the vote was unanimous yesterday to try the later meetings through spring.

Although Mr. Stone proposed a yearlong trial, he accepted Mr. Mish's amendment to try later meetings for four months.

Board member Carolyn L. Scott and President Ann M. Ballard were skeptical.

"They just won't come," Ms. Ballard said, adding that on the few occasions the board has met at night, parents say they can't come because of sporting events, family plans or other events.

"If you go to a PTA meeting [at night], they're lucky if they get 10 people out," she said. She said night meetings require school board workers to work longer, "for the convenience of people who don't show up."

Mr. Stone had come armed with a page showing the meeting times of all 24 public school boards in the state. Except for Carroll, Charles, St. Mary's and Worcester counties, the rest had meetings at least once a month that started in the early evening. Howard County begins its meetings at 4 p.m.

Several counties split the meetings, such as a portion in the afternoon and another portion in the evening, or one day meeting a month and one night meeting a month.

Mr. Stone said he had spoken to each board member individually about his proposal, and knew he had enough support to pass it yesterday.

In its first meeting since the November election, Ms. Ballard was elected by her fellow to succeed Mr. Myers as president. Members agreed on Mr. Mish as vice president, an office that usually leads to a term as president the next year.

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