Here at West Ridge Elementary School, most decisions are made by consensus. But it's a time-consuming process.

"There's a lot that happens outside of the regular school day," says Principal Deborah Ryan Johnson. " We have a bunch of committees and lots of meetings."

Those meetings "can be long and frustrating sometimes," says Joanne Foster, a third-grade teacher.

During the first year, school staff often worked 60-hour weeks. "People are here very early and leave very late," Ms. Johnson says. "We've had to open the school up on Saturday so that people can come in to work."

First-grade teacher Barbara Quinn says she doesn't mind the extra hours. "It's part of my professional duty," she says.

Some meetings are held in the early morning before classes begin, others take place after school. Several parents are on each committee and their participation is expected.

"Parental involvement is part of what you signed up for when you chose to come here," says parent Mary Reddy.

"The staff is very open with parents and this openness has brought a true partnership of sharing the children," says Ellen Meyer, president of the Parent-Teacher Association.

But a handful of parents are still adjusting to the idea of management by consensus, she says. "Some parents still think the principal should make the decision."

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