The Minneapolis school board also unveiled a new look for the upcoming school year at this week's meeting.

Heeding public comment that board meetings are dull and not very engaging for the public, Chair Alberto Monserrate (below) presented changes in how the board operates that were developed at a series of retreats by board members earlier this year.

The board's goal is to have just one business meeting monthly. Those are the sessions where it approves contracts, sets policies and passes resolutions.  They will happen on the second Tuesday of the month, and they continue the board's traditional 5:30 p.m. slot for three-minute comments from the public..

The fourth Tuesday will be reserved for board retreats, less formal work sessions, and interacting with the public less formally, sometimes in community settings. An occasional short business meeting may intrude. The board also anticipates town hall meetings, panel discussions, question-answer sessions, and focus groups.

One reason for the switch is the complaint from people who take advantage of the chance for comment at board meetings that board members take those comments stone-facedly and without responding.  There are obvious advantages for the board in not getting into a tit-for-tate exchange at the webcast meetings. But the lack of response leaves some commenters feeling short-changed, Monserrate said. A format will allow such informal exchanges without degenerating into a flurry of accusations has yet to be devised by the board.

Fortunately, the board willl have some time to work on that, given its plans to meet only once in July. That recommendation will come from a board committee.

Indeed, under the board's new operating protocol, much of its work is expected to orignate with committees. That's a departure from board meetings for most of the last 10 years, which tended not to have committees, but switch between formal and less-formal meetings, as the board now envisions.

Those committees are expected to focus on the four broad areas in which the board has set  its 2013-2014 goals. They are focusing on student academic results, working to more equitably distribute better student results among all schools, revamping the board's strategic plan for 2014, and improving how the board operates. 

The revamping of a strategic plan and accompanying goals should be done in time for the 2014-2015 school year, Monserrate said.  That also means theyd be done in time for voters to weigh them in the 2014 election campaign, in which five of nine board seats will be refilled..