Charleston County School Board meetings long enough to run Cooper River Bridge Run — six times

In the time it takes the Charleston County School Board to finish a typical meeting, you could fly to New York City, roast a 12-pound turkey or watch the Academy Award nominated film “Zero Dark Thirty.”

And that's not counting the time the board spends deliberating behind closed doors in executive session.

During the six most recent regularly scheduled board meetings, the open sessions have averaged three hours. That's enough time for an elite runner to run the Cooper River Bridge Run six times. Or it's enough time for either the Berkeley County or Dorchester 2 school boards to have two of its typical meetings.

“They're too long,” said board member Elizabeth Moffly.

The lengthy meeting time appears to be one factor contributing to recent confusion that caused at least two board members to vote for an item they say now they don't support.

The board had been meeting for hours when it began discussing a proposal to move some middle school students from Lincoln High to St. James-Santee Elementary and some sixth-graders from their elementary schools to Baptist Hill High.

District officials coupled that plan with a recommendation to create task forces to discuss more changes at other schools. The board talked about the task forces but not the grade changes, and school board Chairwoman Cindy Bohn Coats said after the meeting she thought the board “ran out of steam.”

At the next board meeting on Feb. 11, board members Chris Collins and Moffly said they didn't realize what they approved, and they wanted more community engagement before the district goes ahead with those changes. They want to re-vote on the issue at the next meeting.

“I don't think it was clear,” Moffly said. “At least it wasn't clear for me.”

The board's agendas often are two pages and packed with issues. Moffly said some of those need to be pulled out and discussed separately at workshops, or the board needs to meet weekly rather than every other week.

“We need to have time outside of the board meetings to come together and ask questions,” she said.

Coats said the board's agenda is determined by the district's needs and business. She understands some board members want more time, and that's not a problem, she said. But the board had a workshop last week and six members, including Moffly and Collins, didn't attend.

Coats said her bigger concern is “what appears to be a lack of preparedness for the meeting.” The board sometimes asks questions that have been answered in materials it already has received, she said.

“This is a very difficult job, and it requires a lot of due diligence and preparedness, and without that, these meetings will last longer because we're trying to calibrate everyone on the same page,” she said.

Reach Diette Courrégé Casey at @Diette on Twitter or 937-5546.

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