From left. Steve Makoski, Board Vice President Judy Brunner, Board President Danielle Kincaid, Susan Provance, Superintendent Grenita Lathan, Shurita Thomas-Tate, Maryam Mohammadkhani and Kelly Byrne just after the reorganization meeting at the Springfield School Board meeting on April 9, 2024. (Photo by Shannon Cay)

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Springfield Board of Education members have a shorter span of time make their points or ask questions during public meetings.

The board voted to reduce the amount of time allowed by rule for speaking during discussions by half — 10-minute windows were reduced to 5 minutes. A countdown clock will be displayed on monitors in the board room of Kraft Administrative Center, where meetings are usually held.

The timeframes are given to board members for discussing agenda items such as presentations and proposals. Following a parliamentary procedure outlined in “Robert’s Rules of Order,” board members had the chance to speak for up to 10 minutes. Follow-ups are allowed in the same order that board members made their initial comments for an agenda item.

The change will take effect during the board’s next meeting.

Shortened time decided with split vote

Board member Judy Brunner proposed the reduction in time in order to help discussions run more efficiently without drastically changing the board’s debate process.

“I think it’s important for board members to be prepared with remarks related to the agenda and what they want to share,” Brunner said. “I try to do that to the extent that I can with my regular board comments that I’m going to say at the end, and if there is something on the agenda, I need to write something down. I know that the board agrees that we all need to be prepared and concise as best we can.”

It took a 4-3 vote to pass the measure, however. Board members Kelly Byrne, Steve Makoski and Maryam Mohammadkhani voted against cutting debate time in half.

Springfield Board of Education member Kelly Byrne (Photo by Springfield Public Schools)

Byrne said the proposal addresses a problem that doesn’t exist, and takes time away from board members to address the community. Byrne acknowledged that the structure mathematically allows up to 2 hours and 20 minutes for discussing a single agenda item, but says the board rarely uses all that time.

“I will submit that when I first got on the board we had some very long meetings and some non-productive discussions that went pretty long,” Byrne said. “But that has not been the case recently. I also don’t think it’s a good look[…] Why try to shut down our only opportunity to communicate in public as a board with the community?”

Makoski said he wanted to shorten debate time in the past, but ever since the board agreed to stick with “Robert’s Rules,” he hasn’t seen such a need.

“I thought we’ve been quite successful over the last couple years with how we have evolved to this point,” Makoski said. “As for our voices to be heard, especially on topics that are of great concern and need to be considered, it gives us another back and forth to talk. I would not be supportive of just five minutes, I like what we have today.”

Dr. Shurita Thomas-Tate at a Springfield Board of Education meeting Jan. 16, 2024. (Photo by Shannon Cay)

Board member Shurita Thomas-Tate — an associate professor of communication science and disorders at Missouri State University — said she supported the scaling back of time, using advice she gives her students about being succinct and focused to the topic at hand.

“Having time constraints puts the onus on board members to be succinct and to think through their responses in a way that is meaningful and purposeful, and not just a speech of your thoughts,” Thomas-Tate said. “I think it’s important that we have open dialogues and conversations, but to share our every thought about every single thing is just not what’s important.”

Still able to talk for longer

Maryam Mohammadkhani. First elected to the Springfield Board of Education in 2021, she is a retired pathologist who trained and practiced with Harvard Medical School until joining CoxHealth in 2001. (Photo by Shannon Cay)

Board member Maryam Mohammadkhani asked for an amendment that would allow the board to increase talking time for important topics, or to remove time limits on non-action items.

“Mostly I’m concerned about presentations that precede an actionable item,” Mohammadkhani said. “If we try to put a limit on a presentation that I’m expected to vote on, I think we’re going to get into a situation where we are going to have to cut off a presenter because everyone’s not going to be on the same page.”

Picking up on what other board members noted, Board President Danielle Kincaid said that “Robert’s Rules” allow the board to adjust its procedures on the fly, as it sees fit.

“We are provided the agenda beforehand, we have provided PowerPoints beforehand, and we oftentimes have a study session, followed by a regular session,” Kincaid said. “And at any point in time, we can suspend the rules if the board believes that any board member should need more than 10 minutes to have a discussion.”


Joe Hadsall

Joe Hadsall is the education reporter for the Hauxeda. Hadsall has more than two decades of experience reporting in the Ozarks with the Joplin Globe, Christian County Headliner News and 417 Magazine. Contact him at (417) 837-3671 or jhadsall@hauxeda.com. More by Joe Hadsall