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Gainesville school board discusses meeting logistics

POSTED: June 2, 2008 5:00 a.m.
The Gainesville City Board of Education explored some internal issues Wednesday morning, including whether an attorney should sit in on board meetings and when to hold closed-door sessions.

The board held the retreat at city school board offices to review procedures, particularly as two of the members — Sammy Smith and Maria Calkins — are beginning their first four-year terms on the board.

School administrators, including Superintendent Steven Ballowe, didn’t attend the meeting.

At the beginning, board members talked about when they should receive information packets before meetings.

The board has received the packets, which include reports from school administrators, on Fridays before the Monday meetings.

But board members said they would like to start receiving the packets as early as Wednesdays.

"We have an obligation to discuss ... issues with our constituents, staff and with each other," said Smith, who is serving as board chairman for May.

The board members also talked about firming up the agenda for the monthly business meeting at the monthly work session. The work session usually occurs on the first Monday of the month and the business meeting on the third Monday of the month.

Board members also conferred with attorney Phil Hartley of Gainesville on other meeting matters.

Hartley said he wouldn’t advise the board to have a lawyer routinely sit through board meetings.

"Ninety-five percent of the time, it’s a waste of taxpayer money and of our time," Hartley said, noting that boards typically spend much time on proclamations, recognitions and other nonlegal matters.

"We represent some 100 boards around the state and don’t attend any meetings on a regular basis."

The board also discussed the best time during a meeting to discuss matters behind closed doors, an allowance under state law in the case of personnel, student records, land acquisition or pending litigation.

Hartley said boards may tend to put off the "executive session" until the end of the meeting, when board members are tired, and the closed-door matters may be the most important issues of the meeting.

Georgia’s Sunshine Law requires that when a quorum, or a majority, of a group of governmental officials "meets for the discussion or presentation of official business or policy or takes official action, the meeting must be open to the public."



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