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Board members of the Lancaster Central School District soon may put an end to unlimited public speaking during regular meetings.

Sometimes lasting until midnight and dotted with issues not directly related to School Board issues, regular meetings can be a bear, said President Georgette F. Pelletterie, who introduced the idea of time limits at a recent board meeting.

"Meetings that last until 1 or 2 a.m. don't do any good," she said. "And anything past 11 p.m. is hard to focus on. I do believe the public should be heard and all, but I believe it should be done in the most effective way."

The most effective way, many board members feel, includes allowing a public session 15 minutes in the beginning of regular meetings and again toward the end, with a three-minute time limit for each speaker. An informal survey shows the idea has a lot of support. Board members Richard Foley and Debra Simme, however, are skeptical.

"If I have to sit here until 2 a.m. and listen, I will sit here," said Simme. "When I ran for the board, I ran on open communication. When I accepted the position, I accepted that, too. Limiting speakers to three minutes is not enough."

The issue is expected to come up during the board's next work session, on Oct. 10.

The idea of time limits is not new. Some school districts that have seen a lot of budget and tax controversies over the years have them.

The Williamsville School District restricts speakers to three minutes.

In the Iroquois Central Schools, guests are limited to two to three minutes of speaking and are required to fill out a form stating their name, address and topic of concern.

The Depew Public Schools allow public forums for 15 minutes in the beginning and again toward the end of regular meetings, with no time limits on speakers. The Cheektowaga-Sloan School District doesn't impose time limits, either.

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