School board meetings may run long, low-priority items can take precedence over more pressing topics or a lack of organization can inhibit productivity. Without proper planning and preparation through a well-organized agenda, board meetings can easily become derailed. Utilizing an agenda that functions as a tool of efficiency will make the most of your school board meeting. To create an effective agenda, you must take a few steps. These steps will be greatly impacted by whether or not your board follows the standard order of business (parliamentary procedure, like Robert’s Rules of Order).
1. Decide on the meeting structure
Before creating the agenda, address the main topics the board needs to prioritize at this meeting. This is a fundamental step to ensure that the meeting is efficient and productive. Maintain a list of topics that need to be covered by priority (pressing topics should be covered first). When low-priority items take precedence over more urgent issues, the meeting can run long and lose its effectiveness. There may be nothing more frustrating and draining than an exhaustive meeting where nothing pressing is actually addressed or accomplished.
Some agendas may list a start time for the meeting as a whole or for individual agenda items. Votes may be accepted to modify an agenda, but having suggested time parameters can allow for greater delegation and efficiency. Listing the meeting time or time limits for specific agenda items will give ample time for presenters to find ways to consolidate their oral reports. Just because a meeting is lengthy does not mean it is productive. Creating time limits for the agenda items or the meeting as a whole will help focus the group on the actual topics at hand, cultivating efficiency and productivity.
2. Topics will be presented by other administrators
Not only does this take some responsibility off the chair, but it creates ownership and buy-in for others. This also allows for more thorough data to be presented on the topic when administrators can assist with collecting research and information. Delegation of tasks and topics can be listed through the board portal. The portal can also allow for presenters to distribute links, documents and other pertinent information to their topic.
3. Confirm meeting details
BoardDocs has the capability to confirm and share meeting details, like date, time and location. In compliance with sunshine laws, all public meetings must be posted publicly (although it may vary by state regarding how long in advance the meeting details must be posted). Utilizing board portal software makes it easy to share and access meeting agendas and other pertinent information.
4. Begin to outline the agenda
After creating this foundation, you can begin to organize the agenda items in an easy-to-follow format. It is helpful to share the agenda through the board portal in advance of the meeting to allow other presenting members to make adequate preparations. Try to maintain consistency in the organization of meeting agendas so that participants know what to expect in the format (although the format also greatly depends on whether or not the meeting follows a parliamentary procedure). The agenda may follow a similar framework as outlined below.
- Open the meeting. When the meeting is ready to begin (board members are present, a quorum is met), then the presiding board member will open the meeting. This is the point when most boards will also have ceremonial items, such as the Pledge of Allegiance, recognition of students or visitors, and/or public comment.
- Approve minutes from the previous meeting. The draft minutes from the previous meeting should be made available to all present parties for review and approval. This is an opportunity to make any corrections to the previous minutes. The presiding board member should ask if there are any objections to the approval of the minutes before final approval. Having to distribute and read minutes during the meeting can waste time. Utilizing a board portal will allow easy access for previous meeting minutes to be reviewed before the upcoming meeting. Ask members to come to the meeting having reviewed the previous meeting’s minutes and with any notes or corrections to be made.
- Reports from administration, boards and/or committees. The presiding officer should find out prior to preparing the agenda who has a report to share at the meeting. This allows individuals and committees to collect information and prepare reports. Not calling for reports from everyone during the meeting is another practice that will save meeting time. Oral reports should be kept short and include basic pertinent information. Comprehensive reports may be shared through the board portal for the board to review. This not only saves time during the meeting, but provides access to the more detailed pieces of projects and maintains a written record for the board to refer back to.
- Unfinished business. This agenda item may vary by state (in some states, every agenda item must be addressed and there cannot be any unfinished business). Some items may be tabled by the board for the following meeting. Utilizing a board portal, the board can maintain a list of unfinished business items that members and committees may review. Sharing this list through the board portal keeps the board informed regarding the status of any unfinished items.
- New business. New business is typically only used for board members to bring up items to place on a future agenda. These items would always be listed in advance and never introduced at a meeting. For most states, the public should always be made aware of new business items. It is important to check your local procedures or statutes regarding how new business may be presented. Using the board portal to submit any information related to the topic will keep board members and the public informed.
- Close the meeting. The presiding officer can remind others of the next meeting or events, review any assigned tasks or business, and then adjourn the meeting. This is also an ideal time to thank other participating members for their efforts.
5. Remember that preparation is key
Send out all meeting-related information prior to the meeting. This may be asking specific administrators to present on a topic, sharing the allotted time for certain agenda items, reminding others of the meeting date/time/location and sharing the agenda outline. Providing this information in advance allows presenters time to distribute links, data and other research prior to the meeting for review; and, again, shows value regarding the time and energy of the participants. Utilize the board portal to save time in distributing information and materials. Do not underestimate the power of preparing an agenda for your board meeting. The presiding officer can develop and apply an efficient and structured agenda to govern a meeting that produces results.