Board mulls eliminating committeesPublished 9:28pm Saturday, February 23, 2013
The board of education debated the merits of its committee system at its recent meeting.
During committee meetings earlier in the month, Chairwoman Cindy Winstead proposed changes to board and committee meetings.
Rather than supply members with a list of actions from the committee and have them approve minutes of meetings they may or may not have attended, Winstead said, each committee would present a summary of its meetings and a list of motions at the start of the monthly board meeting. She met with opposition from some board members.
During the building, grounds and finance committee meeting, the discussion led to another proposed change.
“The suggestion was to change and do away with the committee process all together and actually have two board meetings a month,” Winstead said. “The difference would be … two full board meetings instead of the committee process.”
She asked for feedback from board members before making any decision.
Winstead said she supports the idea because the public would be aware of all of the board’s actions. Committee meetings are not recorded. The Beaufort County Board of Commissioners pays for the recording of the monthly board meetings, which air on area cable systems. Whether or not the county would pay to record the second meeting was not determined.
Some board members argued that the committee meetings are open to the public and, therefore, just as accessible as the monthly board meeting.
Winstead said eliminating the committee meetings would also get rid of some redundancy. Members of the central office staff are often asked to attend both committee meetings and present the same information to each group.
With the whole board present, votes could be taken at each meeting, Winstead said. That would mean actions would be taken in a matter of weeks, rather than once a month.
“What some boards do is they have a work session and get info then vote on it at second,” said Don Phipps, Beaufort County Schools.
Bill Sprenkle, who was defeated by Carolyn Walker in November’s school board elections, said he approved of the decision to read summaries of the committee meetings and chastised board members who balked at longer meetings. His comments came during a public-comment session of the board’s meeting.
Sprenkle’s comments came up during the committee discussion when board member Mike Isbell voiced a few concerns.
“These aren’t objections. Basically, they’re just thoughts,” he said. “In spite of what Mr. Sprenkle said, time is a concern. It sometimes is tricky to find a day when the committee can meet.”
Isbell said it would be even trickier to find times when the whole board could meet. He also said he enjoyed serving on the personnel and curriculum committee because it is his forte. He had less experience with building and grounds issues.
Walker supported doing away with the committees.
“When I ran, I did not run to be on the building and grounds committee,” she said. “But I’m out of the loop (on personnel and curriculum issues) until the big meeting.”
She said the first few meetings might run longer than usual, but the board would probably end up more productive in two monthly meetings than they are in a board meeting and two committee meetings per month.
Board member Eltha Booth said she really likes working with committee meetings. She reminded Walker board members are welcome to attend the meetings of all committees, not just the one on which they sat.
“I like the way it is going now and if it came to a vote that’s how I would vote,” Booth said.
Board member E.C. Peed took offense to Sprenkle’s comments. She said she is as much for the children of Beaufort County as those who did not complain about the lengths of meetings.
Peed lives in Aurora. She said her days start at 3:30 a.m., and she recalled the late nights the board had before the committees were formed.
“When I come here, I think about the children. I don’t want to be on (N.C.) 33 at 10 (p.m.) like I used to be. But if it comes to that I will,” she said.
Booth questioned what the changes had to do with students.
Vice Chairman Terry Williams said he envisioned the board meeting sometime between 1 p.m. (when the building committee usually meets) and 4:30 p.m. (when the personnel committee usually meets) so that there would not be any late nights.
“I just think it’s a more effective decision,” he said.
Board member Mac Hodges said he was a proponent of the committee. He said the city and county boards needed committees, and Pitt County Schools used committees. He questioned why anyone would think Beaufort County Schools does not need the committee process.
“I feel like it works. I feel like we’re in a transition from one chairman to another,” Hodges said. “I think we’re moving too fast. Lets back up. We’re already doing one thing differently. Lets see how that goes.”
Hodges made a motion to table the discussion until Phipps could bring the board details on how neighboring school boards work.
Williams said he wanted the board to revisit the issue soon.
“I’d like to see this on the agenda for next month,” he said.