Community Participation in Board Meetings and Decision Making Process
As we all know, family and work obligations can get in the way of making time to attend district board meetings. My wife and I have had this issue in the past with finishing work, rushing to school to pick up my daughter, trying to help with homework, and trying to make sure dinner is ready to go.
It's a struggle for many parents and community members. District governing board meetings starting too early, is a complaint I have heard from many parents and community members. Also, if you would like to speak, you have to submit a card before the meeting which doesn't help matters.
In years past, board meetings would start at various times ranging from 10am, 1pm, 3pm, and regular board meetings starting at 5pm. The current board made progress in moving most meetings to a 5pm start time, but even that can be a struggle for working parents to attend.
I was curious, so I started researching when other governing boards began their regular meetings. Here is what I found:
Deer Valley 7pm
Kyrene Study 7pm
Paradise Valley 7pm
Phoenix Union H.S. District 6:30pm
Tempe Union Elementary District 7pm
Tempe Union H.S. District 7pm
Many of the districts above also start their study session around the same time. These start times allow working parents to take care of their responsibilities, and attend board meetings.
From discussions I have had with board members, one concern is the length of Scottsdale Unified's meetings. Many times, the governing board meetings are packed full of presentations, and discussion items, causing the meetings to last hours.
A simple solution to this, is to have more frequent meetings. Some districts have board meetings once a week. Gilbert for example, seems to have a board meeting weekly, and focuses the meetings on a certain topic. One week the meeting will be a business meeting, the next may be a policy meeting, and the next a work study.
The district needs to be more accommodating of working families who want to be involved, but simply can't make our current start times work. As a board member, I would be fully on board with pushing our meeting start times back, and increasing the frequency of the meeting to shorten the length.
I truly believe this will lead to more parent and community engagement in the governing process. Board meeting start times of no earlier than 6pm would be a welcome sight for many working parents. Community input is needed more now than ever before, and later start times ensure more parents have a chance at providing input and feeling like they are part of the process.