A well-planned agenda helps board members prepare for effective discussions and decisions. It assures that the concerns of board members, staff and community will be given appropriate consideration. It helps make it possible to conduct the meeting in an orderly, efficient and fair manner with a minimum of confusion, misunderstanding, dissension (even disaster) that could result from inadequate preparation. It is an avenue for communicating to the board, staff and community important matters to be discussed and actions to be taken. It is an important record – for preparing the minutes, planning future meetings and even for legal purposes.
- The steering mechanism for any meeting.
- Forces logical organization and preparation for the meeting.
- Serves the meeting leader as a guidance and disciplinary tool.
- Tells those who will participate how to prepare.
- For board members, the agenda identifies items and issues to be discussed and for which advance study may be advisable.
- For the public, it calls attention to matters in which an individual may be especially interested.
- For the staff, it indicates what supporting materials may be needed to assure that the board will have the information necessary to reach the right decision.
- For the board president, the agenda provides the guidelines necessary for conducting the meeting in an efficient, well-organized manner.
- For legal purposes, the agenda is kept on file and can be cited as the record of what transpired, also serving as the basis for preparation of the minutes.
- For the superintendent, as the chief administrative officer and advisor to the board, the agenda provides the means for assuring that items and matters to be reported and acted upon will be brought to the board’s attention.
Typically, the superintendent and board president jointly prepare the agenda, with the superintendent responsible for gathering items and preparing the public notices while the board president is responsible for advice. Once the agenda is designed, the president is responsible for ensuring that the agenda is followed.
To be considerate of people who may be unable to stay until the end of the board meeting, schedule special recognitions of students and staff and presentations by speakers and presenters early in the meeting so that they may leave after their involvement in the meeting. Also schedule significant matters and items requiring concentration, analysis, and deliberation by board members and staff early on. Items that are routine or have relatively little importance to the audience may be scheduled toward the end of the meeting.
Your challenge, as a board, is to avoid drowning in the sea of details that surrounds you and, instead, focus your agenda on achieving district goals and look at “big picture” trends that affect the educational well-being of the children in your district. If your meeting agenda does not link to district goals, you may find your board meeting time consumed by relatively insignificant items.
The number of items on the agenda may adversely affect the length of the meeting. The fuller your agenda, the better your meeting must be organized. The board president and the superintendent should estimate the time needed for each presentation or discussion item when planning the meeting agenda to ensure a reasonable meeting length with enough time allocated to discuss each item.
- Determine the ultimate goal(s) of the meeting and the steps to get there.
- Break down the generalized topics in the agenda into specific discussion items to promote logical meeting thought and better control of this flow.
- Organize multiple topic meetings so that related subjects are discussed in order.
- Delineate between action and information items.
- Hold separate meetings for very important topics.
- Select the people who attend, besides the board.
- Consider the possible barriers and ways to get around or through them.
- Mark each item on the agenda with policy references.
- Have the staff prepare specific, pre-drafted motions and resolutions where possible.
Getting on the Agenda
Every school board should have a policy which sets out procedures and conditions for persons who wish to appear before the board of education. In developing its policy the board should consider that only members of the board have a right to speak at board meetings. Board meetings are public meetings but not meetings of the public.
A prerequisite to getting on the agenda should be that a person exhausts administrative remedies before bringing the problem to the board. A board should not allow a person to use a board meeting as a forum to complain about a problem until administrators have had a chance to solve the problem.
Boards should also consider the following questions during the development of a policy regarding placement on the agenda.
- May any board member submit an item for inclusion? If so, how? Are there timelines?
- May any member of the public submit an item for inclusion? If so, how? Are there timelines?
- Who are the key people involved in structuring the agenda?
- Who is responsible for collecting all the information, suggestions and requests and actually preparing the agenda?
- Are annual agenda items reviewed to ensure annual events are not overlooked?
A common fault is to dwell too long on trivial but urgent items, to the exclusion of subjects of fundamental importance whose significance is long-term rather than immediate. This can be remedied by putting on the agenda the time at which discussion of the issue will begin – and sticking to it.
To expedite business at a school board meeting, the board may choose to use a consent agenda. A consent agenda is an item listed on the regular agenda that groups routine items under one agenda heading. This allows your board to take a unified motion and action on all items listed under the consent agenda instead of taking separate votes on each item.
It is understood that all items listed under the consent agenda have the recommendation of your superintendent and are routine in nature. Routine items are those items that occur throughout the year and are thought to be readily acceptable to all members.
If a consent agenda is used, the board president should ask if any member of your board would like to discuss or remove any item from the consent agenda to discuss and vote separately on that item. All items on the consent agenda are approved by a single motion stated as follows: “I move to approve the items listed on the consent agenda.” If the motion receives a second, the president takes the vote on the single motion.
Some boards prefer to schedule the consent agenda early on the agenda and include approval of the minutes; others prefer to schedule it later on the agenda. This is your board’s decision. Remember the purpose of a consent agenda is to save time.
- Approval of personnel changes.
- Review of monthly bills or financial report.
- Resolution to recognize Educational Secretaries Week.
- Approval of minutes.