Party in the front, business in the back for Haywood County Board of Education

Admittedly, the issue of recording work sessions and regular board meetings on video would be mostly moot if the public took more of an interest in them; indeed, Haywood County Board of Education Chairman Chuck Francis expressed his “disappointment” in low attendance at the meetings.

But an investigation by The Smoky Mountain News into a year’s worth of the board’s regular meetings — which are all available on YouTube — might reveal some hints as to why, exactly, that is. 

partygraphOver the last 12 meetings dating back to September 2015, approximately 775 minutes were spent in public session. Of that, about 336 of those minutes — over 43 percent of the time spent meeting — were devoted to recognizing administrators, athletes, employees, staff, students and teachers for various accomplishments and not on actual board business. 

An all-time high — or low, depending on your perspective — occurred this past May, when in a meeting that lasted almost 2 hours and 20 minutes, only 42 minutes were spent on actual board business, including the pledge of allegiance, the invocation, and the approval of the previous month’s meeting minutes.

That means that for over an hour and a half, or 70 percent of the meeting, the media and the public were subjected to a dog-and-pony show that had little to do with any actual issues. 

The month before that was even worse; in April, 74 percent of the 65-minute meeting, or 48 minutes, was devoted to recognizing the accomplishments of various people. 

Although few would argue that the athletic and academic achievements of students as well as the acknowledgement of employee educational attainment, training and promotion aren’t worthy of respect, perhaps the school board meeting isn’t an appropriate place for that to happen; such proceedings usually take place at the beginning of meetings, forcing important discussion and votes to the end.

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