How your board can benefit by use of a consent agenda

Long board meetings can adversely affect the board’s effectiveness. When the hour is late and board members refrain from commenting on important issues because they want to avoid the “eye-rolls” of their fellow board members, quality discussion suffers. When board members vote “yes” or “no” without having all of their concerns addressed, quality suffers. When relatively routine items on the agenda command the same attention as strategic matters, quality suffers. Board members, must constantly look for ways to make their meetings more effective. The Consent Agenda is one tool that boards can use to make their meeting more efficient.

What is a consent agenda and how will it make our meetings go faster?

Most school board agendas contain several items that do not require discussion because they are either routine in nature or already have unanimous consent. The consent agenda (Roberts Rules of Order calls it a consent calendar) allows boards to approve all these items together without discussion or individual motions. This practice can free up meeting time for the most important matters on the agenda, hence improving the quality of decisions and ultimately the meeting itself.

What belongs on the consent agenda?

Typical consent agenda items are routine, procedural decisions, and decisions that are likely to be non-controversial.

Examples include:

  • Approval of minutes
  • Approval of regular reports that require little to no deliberation
  • Routine matters such as appointment to committees
  • Staff appointments requiring board confirmation
  • Reports presented for information only
  • Correspondence requiring no action

How is the consent agenda handled?

A consent agenda only works if the reports and other matters for the meeting agenda are known in advance and are distributed with the agenda package in sufficient time to be read by all members prior to the meeting.

  • The board president determine(s) what belongs on the consent agenda.
  • A numbered list of the proposed consent items is made part of the agenda.
  • The list of consent items and all supporting documents are included in the board’s agenda package, which is delivered in sufficient time to be read by all members prior to the meeting.
  • At the beginning of the meeting, the chair asks members what items they wish to be removed from the consent agenda and discussed individually.
  • If any member requests that an item be removed from the consent agenda, it must be removed. Members may request such action for any reason. They may wish to discuss the item, to query the item, or to register a vote against the item.
  • Once it has been removed, the chair can decide whether to take up the matter immediately or place it on the regular meeting agenda.
  • When there are no more items to be removed, the chair or secretary reads out the number of the remaining consent items and states, “If there is no objection, these items will be adopted.” After pausing for any objections, the chair states “As there are not objections, the consent agenda items are adopted.” It is not necessary to ask for a vote or a show of hands.
  • When preparing the minutes, the Secretary includes the full text of the resolutions, reports or recommendations that were adopted as part of the consent agenda.

What do we have to do to begin using the consent agenda process?

In order to start using a consent agenda, the board should first adopt a rule of order allowing for the consent agenda process.

General suggestions—
  • Sample rule of order, “A consent agenda may be presented by the president at the beginning of a meeting. Items may be removed from the consent agenda on the request of any member. Items not removed may be adopted by general consent without debate. Removed items may be taken up either immediately after the consent agenda or placed later on the agenda at the discretion of the assembly.”
  • It is important to make sure that all board members know what items belong on the agenda and how to move items to and from the consent agenda. For this reason, instruction on using the consent agenda should be part of the board orientation program.

This article is published by Yvonne Adkins of Adkins & Company, a Kentucky based consulting group. We position charter schools for success by providing access to high quality services and expertise for boards, operators and authorizers.

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