School board splits 3-2 to change meetings to Tuesdays

It was a relatively easy agenda item that came with a frequent 3-2 split vote on the Fayette County Board of Education. Board members Monday night voted to change the work session and regular meeting nights from Mondays to Tuesdays and re-elected Terri Smith as chairman and Lee Wright as vice-chair — all on the familiar split votes.

Noting that some school board members had favored one meeting day over the other, Superintendent John DeCotis said he had received feedback from the public and some on the board that they would like to have more time to look over agenda items and the supporting documentation provided on the school system’s website. DeCotis added that changing the meeting day to Tuesdays would not conflict with the meetings held by other local governments.

Chairman Terri Smith, in advocating for a Tuesday meeting day, said “It seems like an extra day would help us get our homework done. Sometimes it’s kind of crazed on Mondays.”

The board agenda and some or all of the supporting documentation is posted online sometime during the work day on the Mondays prior to the meeting.

Also supporting a change to Tuesdays, board member Janet Smola said the change would give school system staff and the public two days to review the agenda and provide board members with input. Smola said she had heard from some school system staff that having an additional day to review agenda material would be helpful.

Board member Bob Todd also weighed in on the topic, saying the major issue is the deadline for staff to get their information in and for that information to be given to the board.

“If that’s not done it doesn’t matter if the meeting is on Monday or Tuesday,” he said. “There’s got to be a deadline that’s set. So is it necessary to change the day or is it conducive to set a deadline on Thursday (prior to the meeting)?”

Todd also mentioned that in years past the board held to Monday meeting days to give the local press adequate lead time for issues they wanted to cover.

Smola responded, saying that the newspapers could publish the stories in the next day’s paper.

The change means The Citizen will not have school board meeting news in the Wednesday paper, because the paper goes to press during the new meeting time.

However, TheCitizen.com will have next-morning stories on the Tuesday night meetings for the online audience, which is at least twice the size of the print readership, publisher Cal Beverly said.

Todd’s idea of establishing a deadline day for staff to submit information for the meetings was carried forward by board member Marion Key,

“We still don’t get some documents until we get to the board meeting,” Key said, reiterating the point that both the board and the public need access to information earlier than now exists.

Board member Lee Wright agreed, saying “Lots of times we don’t get (information) for the work sessions until we get here.”

Responding to Key’s question about getting supporting documentation for agenda items a week ahead of time, Smola said that was not possible.

DeCotis on receiving supporting documentation from staff by Fridays said the district in the past tried for a Wednesday cutoff but the schools could not get all the information in on time. DeCotis said he would be willing to try a Thursday deadline.

After the brief discussion the idea of calling for a deadline day was dismissed by the majority. The discussion ended with a 3-2 vote to change the board’s meeting day to Tuesdays. Smith, Smola and Wright voted to the change, while Todd and Key were opposed.

The vote to elect new officers came with much less discussion but with the same vote tally. Smith was re-elected board chair and Wright as vice-chair. And as has been the case in a number of meetings over the past year or more, the vote was again split 3-2 with Smith, Smola and Wright voting in favor and Todd and Key opposed.

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