Welcome to the Charleston County School Board, where productivity sometimes takes a backseat to individual agendas.
You have to applaud board members for recognizing that they have a problem and that their meetings aren't as effective as they could be.
They've gone so far as to consider hiring a parliamentarian to help them move their meetings along.
Members of the National Organization of Parliamentarians or the American Institute of Parliamentarians don't generally go around soliciting work, so their services have to be requested.
Laura Kennedy LeGrand is the president of the South Carolina Association of Parliamentarians. She said it certainly sounds like the board could use the help of a member of her organization, and she should know. Two years ago, the Sumter woman wrote an article for the association's publication, National Parliamentarian, called “Your Part in a Productive Meeting.” It's a sort of highlights list of ways to be a good board member.
For instance, under the header “Obtaining the floor,” LeGrand writes: “When the opportunity arises, take part in the discussion, but do it correctly. Do not speak out of turn. In order to 'obtain the floor,' you must first be recognized by the presiding officer.”
Sounds reasonable. Except as Diette Courrege's story pointed out this week, sometimes the board members don't always listen to the presiding officer, in this case, board Chairman Chris Fraser.
She further notes: “It is both rude and improper to speak without obtaining the floor.”
The biggest problem with the school board may be that its members know and understand Robert's Rules of Order, but don't want to follow them.
Again, from LeGrand's article: “One of your member privileges is the right to make motions and take part in debate. Your part is to learn to do it correctly.”
These are all areas where a parliamentarian could help the board improve. LeGrand said the first thing a parliamentarian would want to do is review the board's bylaws, the documents by which the board lives.
Then a parliamentarian would work behind the scenes, helping the board write an effective agenda, or craft successful plans for adoption of motions.
And, the amazing thing is, when parliamentary procedure is properly followed, LeGrand said, the minority opinion is definitely heard, because the procedures dictate that you take a pro, then a con, then a pro, then a con.
“That's what it's all about — you're protecting the minority,” she said.
By the way, the state organization is looking into forming a Lowcountry chapter to complement groups in Sumter, Columbia, Greenville and Anderson. If you're interested, email LeGrand at email@example.com.
As LeGrand wrote in closing: “?'Your Part in Productive Meeting' is to educate yourself in the work of the organization and to learn how to conduct yourself in such a way that your presence enhances the meeting.”
If school board members could do that, maybe some of their problems would be solved.
Reach Digital Editor Melanie Balog at 937-5565.