During her 16-year tenure as a St. Paul school board member, Anne Carroll often remarked that board-meeting presentations were being made for the benefit of a "vast viewing audience."
But anyone who has sat in on a meeting or waited for a crucial vote knows that monitoring the St. Paul school board has been no easy exercise -- not with meetings that routinely extend past the 3-1/2 hour mark.
The new board aims to change that.
Chairman Jon Schumacher has said he wants meetings to end by 8:30 p.m. True to his word, the district on Thursday released an agenda for next Tuesday calling for an 8:20 p.m. adjournment.
Schumacher said that his goal is to increase efficiency and open other ways for board members to engage with the public. Meetings at school sites are in the works, too.
In a meeting in August, Superintendent Valeria Silva acknowledged that officials, board members and others often find themselves exhausted by 9 p.m. Last year, only two board meetings ended before 8:30 p.m.; the latest ran until 11:04 p.m., according to the year's meeting minutes.
In June 2014, a pivotal meeting requiring the board to approve a 2014-15 budget plus decide the fate of an administrative proposal to put iPads in the hands of all students ended at 11:15 p.m.
While the new board stands to win points with those who like crisply-run meetings, it has yet to exhibit full transparency with regards to its professed goals for 2016. In a committee meeting about a week ago, Silva's new bosses surprised her with a list of proposed priorities for 2016 -- a list that has yet to appear in full on the board's website or in the written minutes of that Jan. 5 gathering.
Jan. 20 update: A school-climate update consumed a good chunk of Tuesday night's meeting, and after a break was taken and other issues dealt with, adjournment came just before 8:45 p.m. A reporter then learned that the printed agenda that had been circulated at the meeting had on it a new 8:45 p.m. adjournment time. So, the board met its first deadline, but not its 8:30 p.m. goal.