LAFAYETTE — The new Lafayette Parish School Board has reached a consensus on an issue before being sworn into office — board meetings should be streamlined and more efficient.
It’s possible that a committee structure, used in other school districts, as well as the state’s Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, could take shape in Lafayette Parish.
The incoming board meets for the first time Wednesday. While issues of committees and streamlining meetings aren’t yet on the agenda, the public can expect some efforts on the board’s part to streamline future meetings, based on conversations among board members during an orientation held Saturday. A workshop with the board’s attorneys at Hammonds, Sills, Adkins and Guice is likely in the board’s near future. Last year, attorney Bob Hammonds offered to make recommendations on how the board could streamline its agendas and meetings.
The law firm represents a majority of school boards in the state, and Lafayette could draw on that expertise, said District 2 board member Tommy Angelle, who was elected to his second term on the board.
“I think we could pick their brain in terms of what is being done in certain parishes that speed up the process — without sacrificing any kind of information and have a more efficiently run meeting without sacrificing any information being received by the board or public input,” Angelle said Monday.
On Wednesday, the board also will elect its leadership for 2015, and Angelle, who was vice president last year, said he’d be interested in a leadership role again. On the nine-member board, seven members are new. Of the six past board members who sought re-election, only Angelle and Tehmi Chassion won their seats again.
Angelle said he’d support a committee system for board members to receive information from staff and present it or a recommendation on an issue to the full board during the meeting.
During Saturday’s orientation with the new board, a suggestion to start comment cards for the public to fill out to express their opinion about an issue on the agenda and to note if they want to make public comment.
The board has had a history of not allowing the public to ask questions of the board during public comment. That practice was questioned by incoming board member Jeremy Hidalgo, District 9, during Saturday’s orientation. On Saturday, Hidalgo said the questions could shed light on an issue that board members and staff had not considered.
“We certainly don’t want midnight meetings again, but sometimes those questions are needed,” Hidalgo said.
In the past, a few meetings have stretched to midnight and a majority of meetings in the past few years have been four hours or longer.
Incoming board member Elroy Broussard spent about 12 years on the Lafayette Consolidated Government’s board of zoning and adjustments and said he’d support a committee structure to help the board conduct its business more efficiently.
During Saturday’s orientation, interim Superintendent Burnell LeJeune told board members that he’d like them to reach out to staff members and ask questions before board meeting. That practice will help ensure board members are prepared to make the decisions, Broussard said Monday.
Any changes the board makes in the way it conducts its meetings won’t be immediate, he said.
“It’s going to take some time for the new board to get in there and as we go, feel our way through to make some adjustments because we’ve got a lot of work to do,” Broussard said. “We’ve got to understand and start understanding about the way the school system is run, and it will take some time.”
Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.