Jim Sadler

In an effort to improve public feedback and efficiency, Missoula County Public Schools trustees have agreed to further pursue an alternative meeting schedule.

The board discussed the topic earlier this week, after it previously had been considered in one of the board’s three committees.

Currently, trustees sit on at least one of three committees: Finance and Operations; Personnel, Negotiations and Policy; and Teaching and Learning.

Committees meet once a month for two hours during the normal workday. Members make formal recommendations to the full board on issues that come before them in committee.

However, several trustees said many people, including themselves, can’t get to daytime meetings.

“I would love to find a better way to allow the public to be part of the conversation,” trustee Marcia Holland said.

In general, trustees liked the idea of two meetings a month, with one dealing with mostly business and operations issues and the other focusing on topics that would be heard in committee under the current structure.

“I’m all for efficiency,” said Debbie Dupree, who represents Seeley Lake, Swan Valley, Clinton, Sunset and Potomac. “I don’t come to a lot of (meetings) because there’s like 49 in a week. Seriously, we are very inefficient in my opinion, which has been my opinion for 10 years.”

At least one trustee, though, worried that having two formal meetings instead of three informal committee meetings and one full board meeting would hinder feedback from community members.

Board members can only listen to public comment during full-board meetings, said Jim Sadler, who is one of the board’s vice chairmen and leads the Teaching and Learning Committee.

“Where in committee meetings, they come and you’re able to discuss things. You get a better flavor of it,” Sadler said.

Although Sadler said he is not averse to trying two meetings a month, he cautioned that doing so might make trustees less informed about issues because there would be less time for presentations and sharing information.

To allow more time for public feedback and because temporarily trying a new meeting schedule requires the board to suspend its policy outlining how its members meet, trustees decided to further discuss the idea next month, with the goal of implementing a new schedule that could be revised as necessary in May.

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