At a special meeting Friday morning called to finish off an agenda that couldn't be completed at their regular meeting, the Hesperia Unified School District school board argued for two hours about limiting future discussion on issues.

At Tuesday's board meeting (bumped from Monday due to the Labor Day holiday), the board spent only 30 minutes on the issues on their agenda in the 4.5 hours of their meeting. After hearing reports from local high schools about the current events at their school, they spent two hours in closed session (with no reportable action other than the approval of reports presented). An hour was spent arguing about board member Hardy Black's decision to reorganize the evening's agenda. And a half hour was spent listening to comments from what members of the public remained before the board started work on the agenda at 10 p.m., 30 minutes before the mandated end of their meeting.

Friday morning, they picked up where they left off at 7:30 a.m. (a time chosen to allow for the work schedules of some board members) in more ways than one. The board spent an hour of arguing about Black's decision to reorganize the agenda on Tuesday, and its ramifications on approving a provisional internship permit for a Hesperia High School teacher. They then spent much of the morning arguing about a newly introduced proposal by Black to limit how long the board could discuss any given issue.

"If we can't get an item done in 40 minutes, we have bigger internal problems that we need to address," said Black, factoring in the two hours of closed session meetings the school board has prior to the 6 p.m. start of the public portion of regular board meetings. "A six-and-a-half-hour meeting is almost a full day of work for teachers. We should be able to get our business done in six and a half hours."

So Black passed out a proposed revision to board bylaw 9121(A), limiting the time any board member could speak on an issue to two three-minute turns. A board majority could also vote to add an additional two minutes for each board member, for a total of 10 more minutes of discussion.

"We're not trying to limit a board member's freedom of speech," said board member Anthony Riley. "What we're trying to do is improve our efficiency."

"There has not just been one long lengthy [meeting] times," said board vice-president Lee Rogers. "We have had meetings that go until 1 and 2 in the morning. … Board meetings should be efficient."

Since Black, Kirk and Rogers were elected in November 2006, meetings have rarely ended before 10:30 p.m., and in the first two years of their term, they often voted to extend meetings even longer.

"There is a board majority's will to restrict the minority," said board member Chris Bentley. Since his election in November 2008, Bentley has been in the minority on the board, often clashing with the three-member majority made up of board members Black, Riley and Robert Kirk, and often at length.

"Nobody's restricting what [Bentley] says," said Black. "Nobody's ever been able to restrict what he says."

"Let's get down to it and vote," said Riley at 9:42, more than two hours after the meeting began, "Because some of us have to get to work."

The motion passed by a 3-2 majority, with Bentley and Rogers dissenting. Rogers made clear her vote was against approving a measure the public was unable to see ahead of time, as Black's revisions were not part of the agenda packet published prior to Tuesday's meeting.

"No one had a chance to take a look at it, as far as I know," she said. "Consequently it was not fair to us, the board, or fair to the public."

Alice Waters, an attorney with Wagner & Pelayes, one of the district's legal firms, agreed.

"If you're making decisions on documents that the public hasn't seen  … how do I say this? We need to take a look at it," she said. "That information needs to be in the packet."

Black was firmly against it, saying that he didn't want to go through another long meeting before the measure could be enacted.

"It's just a few weeks, but it's also several hours of meeting," he said.

By a margin of 4-1, with Black dissenting, the board voted to bring it back in October as a second reading, to let the public get some input on the revision.

The board adjourned the meeting at 12:35, five hours after the special meeting began. Six information items, which have been bounced from agenda to agenda for months, were left undone.

The next regular meeting of the HUSD school board will be held on October 5 at 6 p.m. in the HUSD Educational Support Center Annex, 15576 Main Street.

Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com. Follow us on Twitter at Twitter.com/hesperiastar.