School Committee ponders revised meeting schedule
PORTLAND — The School Committee is considering changing where it meets and the day of the week its meetings are held.
Committee member Rebecca Minnick made the announcement at one of the committee's recent meetings. Meetings are held in Room 250 of Casco Bay High School, 196 Allen Ave., the same place as the superintendent's office and the school television station, TV3.
Minnick said Monday that she became interested in holding the committee meetings in City Hall as a way to save money and be more accessible to the community, including herself. For about a year, she said, she relied on public transportation to get from her East End home to the meetings, which often ended after buses stopped running.
"I found it challenging at best to get there in a timely way or get there at all," said Minnick, suggesting that her constituents may share the same trouble.
Since 2007, Minnick, whose term expires this year, has missed 18 meetings and arrived late for one, according to committee minutes.
"Given our commitment to making the meetings accessible to all our
constituents, I felt that it was important for people who rely on
public transportation to be able to attend," she said.
But a memo prepared by the interim superintendent said holding meetings in City Hall wouldn't save any money, since 196 Allen Ave. must be open at night for adult education classes. Also, about 80 percent of school families live off the peninsula.
Although a joint facilities task force will continue looking into moving the meetings, it's unclear whether the committee will support Minnick's proposal. Committee member Sarah Thompson said the School Department recently invested $40,000 in new cameras, lighting and online streaming capabilities at the high school.
"It's been discussed before," Thompson said. "(But) there have been a lot of technological advances at (TV3), so to walk away from that would not be a wise investment on our part."
Committee member Elizabeth Holton said the initial response from the city was that holding school meetings at City Hall would be a logistical problem. However, a task force on school facilities is continuing to look into the request.
The School Committee is likely, however, to begin holding some of it's meetings at different locations within the community, Houlton said, possibly even making a trip out to Peaks Island.
The committee is also considering changing it's meeting date to Tuesday, she said, to accommodate committee members who must travel because of their day jobs.
"That is going to be looked at by the policy committee," Holton said.
The memo said scheduling business meetings on Tuesdays, when school subcommittees often meet, would leave more time for members to travel later in the week. "One set night is predictable and easier for the public and school community to remember," the memo said.