School Board adds second monthly meeting

Plus, Ramsey teacher honored as an Outstanding Educator

Are School Board members getting tired of all the late nights?

Relatively early in their May 12 meeting, which would eventually run more than four hours, board members approved a 2015–2016 meeting calendar that includes committee of the whole meetings on the fourth Tuesday of each month. That’s in addition to a regular board meeting every second Tuesday.

For the past two years, the School Board’s calendar has included just that one regular meeting per month, plus quarterly retreats. Other meetings are scheduled on an as-needed basis.

It’s not clear if fewer meetings mean longer meetings, but there have been instances in the past year of School Board meetings stretching beyond three or even four hours. That means adjourning sometime after 10 p.m. on a school night.

Recalling the previous month’s meeting, Board Member Tracine Asberry said there was almost no one left in the audience when they concluded their business.

“I don’t remember what time it was, but it was pretty late,” Asberry said.

She said the board should strive to be both “effective and efficient” when it schedules board meetings and sets agendas.

Records on the district website indicate the board officially met 19 times in 2014 and 21 times in 2013. In 2012, the board met 33 times. Those counts include some days when the board gaveled out a brief regular meeting and immediately launched into a longer discussion meeting on the same evening, but they still all gathered in their boardroom on more days in 2012 than in either of the following two years.

The board has averaged two meetings per month through the first five months of 2015.

School Board Chair Jenny Arneson said adding meetings to the calendar might not get them home any earlier. The board’s assistant went over the records and found “sometimes when you have a two meetings a month they are also long,” Arneson said.

“What we have found is that we tend to have cycles during the year in which we have a lot of heavy topics and then we have cycles in the year when we don’t,” she said. “We have found that even when we have two meetings a month, during those big topics we had equally late meetings.”

The board will only discuss and not vote on agenda items during committee of the whole meetings, although it can reclassify any of those dates as a special meeting to conduct official business.

Arneson noted that the board sets the agenda for meetings and can control that one very significant factor in meeting length.

“There are some things we can’t control, like public comments,” she continued. “I know we all welcome the public comments, but the last couple of months they have taken in excess of an hour.”

 

Ramsey teacher an Outstanding Educator honoree

Ramsey Middle School teacher Elissa Cedarleaf Dahl was named a regional honoree in the WEM Foundation 2015 Outstanding Educator Awards.

Cedarleaf Dahl teaches art and serves on Ramsey’s Family Engagement Council. She was honored in the “Teacher Achievement” category recognizing educators who push students to higher levels of achievement, demonstrate a command of their subject area, incorporate technology into their lessons and invite parent and community participation in their work.

In announcing the award, the foundation specifically noted Cedarleaf Dahl’s use of online and multimedia technology in her art classes and her participation in the school’s antiracism leadership group.

The Outstanding Educator Awards program is administered for the WEM Foundation by Synergy & Leadership Exchange, a North Mankato-based nonprofit. The program was created in 1998.

Honorees are selected from a pool of teachers nominated by students and colleagues who are then evaluated by a panel of business and education leaders.

Regional honorees like Cedarleaf Dahl get a $1,500 gift and are invited to participate in the statewide awards competition the following year. State winners receive a $15,000 gift.