Committee tackles timing of agendas

Published 6:38 pm Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Suffolk School Board members can expect to soon receive meeting agendas at least a week in advance, but it will likely come with a price.

Under guidelines put in place by the Policy Review Committee at its Tuesday meeting, members would have to submit any items they want on the agenda at least two weeks in advance to allow division staff time to prepare it.

The board could formally adopt a policy on providing meeting agendas as early as its Dec. 12 meeting.

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The discussion about meeting agendas came up in the committee in October. At the board’s regular meeting earlier that month, member Tyron Riddick noted that he felt unprepared to vote on matters before the board because members had only received the agenda packets earlier that day.

Board Vice Chairwoman Dr. Judith Brooks-Buck, who serves on the committee along with Sherri Story, said that the board used to get the agendas a week in advance, but it had been receiving them later due to an illness in the family of the board’s clerk.

Riddick requested that something be put in policy that would provide the board with the agendas at least a week in advance.

Under Virginia Code, notice of a meeting must be made at least three days prior to the meeting, though copies of the proposed agenda and agenda packets “shall be made available for public inspection at the same time such documents are furnished to the members of the public body.”

Wendell Waller, attorney for Suffolk Public Schools, said the language in the proposed policy would provide for the agendas at least seven business days ahead of any board meeting.

Brooks-Buck said she had no problem with the proposed policy, but asked about how far in advance board members would have to submit any items to be included on the agenda.

“The point that I brought up at the last meeting was, if somebody wants to then put something on the day before and then we have to get the team — all the staff has to drop everything to try to get together three months of work, it doesn’t make sense,” Brooks-Buck said. “So, if board members want to add something to the agenda, we’re going to have to have a time limit as to when they add something to the agenda.”

Board Chairwoman Phyllis Byrum, an alternate on the committee — Story was absent from Tuesday’s meeting — agreed with Brooks-Buck.

Waller suggested language be added that board members must submit any item to be on the regular meeting agenda at least 14 business days in advance of the scheduled meeting.

He said he planned to draft language to address that and would send it to the board to review and then vote on.

“I think it needs to be understood before we start another year of getting stuff in at the last minute,” Brooks-Buck said, “and then have people stand before us for 30 minutes trying to explain or unpack all the details of something that could have been in our hands in advance.”