If medical researchers used the same criteria in their experiments as the Carroll County Board of Education, we would still be treating simple fevers with leeches and foul-smelling poultices. After holding a single evening meeting, the board apparently concluded the "experiment" was an abject failure. Even though 200 people turned out last month at the first evening meeting the board held in recent memory, members opined that those people just attended for an awards ceremony and that the change was too much of a hassle for the staff.
Not only are board members drawing premature conclusions about the value of night meetings, they seem to have an inverted sense of priorities. Instead of worrying about the staff staying late one night a month, the board should be concerned that most county taxpayers will never have the opportunity to observe its meetings so long as all of them are scheduled during traditional work hours.
Admittedly, finding the perfect time to schedule a meeting is impossible. There will always be some conflict. But most organizations try to select an optimum time designed to inconvenience the fewest number of potential attendees.
The board's practice of meeting during the day ensures that most parents will be unable to attend. Convening evening meetings, as is done routinely in surrounding counties, means that more people will be able to take part.
Counting the number of parents who remained through the entire meeting last month, as did board Chairman John Myers, is not the way to determine interest in the board's work. Practically no one -- with the exception of news reporters and staffers who receive pay to observe -- willingly subjects himself or herself to sitting through three-hour board meetings. Rather, the board's objective should be to create an opportunity for countians to attend as much of each meeting as they like.
New board member C. Scott Stone is on the right track with his recommendation that the board experiment by holding the administrative portion of the meeting in late afternoon and the policy-making and student recognition sessions after a dinner break. Mr. Stone's proposition deserves more than one test before the board makes a final determination on whether to make its business more accessible to the public it serves.