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posted: 3/1/2014 8:01 AM

District 25 puts time limits on board discussions

Board discussion gets too long, some say

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Topics of discussion at Arlington Heights Elementary District 25 school board meetings will now come with suggested time limits.

Although two board members are not happy with the limits, school board President David Page said the policy shift is meant to keep meetings, which sometimes last more than three hours, moving more quickly and keep board members from getting on a soapbox.

Topics will have suggested time limits on the agenda, Page said, but if a majority of the board wants to keep talking, discussion will be extended.

"We are conducting a board meeting in public, but we are trying to get business done and that's the purpose of the meeting," Page said.

He said sometimes a board member hasn't read up on the subject and tries to do learn it at the meeting.

"It's kind of disrespectful of everyone's time to drag the meeting on," he said.

Others, however, question the transparency of the move.

Rich Olejniczak, the board's newest member, said he had concerns.

"If someone is determining ahead of time how long we will talk about a subject, that seems to be limiting the board's ability," he said.

Olejniczak said he understands it is wise not to schedule several long discussions on the same night. He said he would support having more frequent meetings -- District 25 often meets once a month -- as a way to shorten the meetings without limiting discussion.

"This just seems counterintuitive to the process of open meetings, open dialogue and discussion," Olejniczak said. "Then we are getting to a point where there is more discussion happening outside the board meeting than at the board meeting."

On Thursday night, board member Phil Crusius voted with Olejniczak against the policy change but would not discuss the subject Friday, deferring to Page as board president and spokesman.

Page said he and Superintendent Sarah Jerome heard the time limits idea discussed at education seminars. He said some neighboring districts, including Des Plaines District 62, put suggested time limits on their agendas.

On Friday, Page defended the board against charges it is not open, saying transparency is a "buzzword" people use when they are unhappy with an outcome.

At recent meetings parents have asked for school board meetings to be recorded and posted online, and for more transparency about large decisions, including eliminating the district's gifted program.

"This is about efficiency. It's not at all to squelch discussion," Page said. "Nobody has ever been censored. In terms of transparency, it's all out there."

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