First, the plan for a board retreat with the new board members before yearend has been scratched. Chairwoman Lynnda Crowder-Eagle had planned a Stone Mountain Park retreat for Dec. 10-11 but incoming members Scott Sweeney, Kathleen Angelucci and Tim Stultz squashed the out-of-town trip. They preferred that such a get-together be held at the BOE central office on Glover Street, a refreshing common sense approach to save time and money - just the ticket in this tight economy when every dime is needed for academic purposes, not junkets by school board members.
Instead of retreating to Stone Mountain Park, the newly elected members are ready to charge forward in the coming year, and once they are sworn in next month, they have major challenges facing them, starting with the search for a new superintendent to succeed Fred Sanderson who has resigned effective June 30, 2011.
In one of its last actions, the outgoing board voted Thursday to post advertisements for the superintendent's job in various educational journals and on education websites. But time is short, and instead of searching far and wide, the new board should take a close look at qualified candidates here in Georgia. No doubt, there are many well-informed, respected educators who can give the board sound advice and recommendations.
The new board will also need to take another look at a new policy governing the extremely important SPLOST oversight Facilities and Technology Committee. As another of its final acts, the board voted 6-1, with Alison Bartlett dissenting, to split the committee into two eight-member subcommittees, one to review facilities and the other technology, while changing the meeting schedule from monthly to quarterly. Bartlett said she will revisit this matter after the new board members are seated - and rightly so. Instead of approving last-minute changes, outgoing board members John Abraham, John Crooks and Holli Cash should have left this matter for their successors to decide.
In his farewell remarks, Abraham spoke of some things he had learned that he wanted to share, most notably this: "Successful and sustainable partnerships are built on trust." It is a lesson that he might have learned much sooner so he would not have reneged early in his term on a promise to voters not to support an early school start date. He did the opposite, and that action, coupled with his intolerance of citizens at board meetings, shot his chances of reelection had he decided to run again.
However, Abraham was absolutely on target. Trust is the beginning and end of the relationship of school board members - and all other elected officials - with their constituents. Unless the board collectively and the members individually listen to the concerns of their constituents and act on them, success will not be enjoyed by the board.
That should not be a problem for the majority of the new board - Bartlett, Angelucci, Sweeney and Stultz - for they have already shown that they are committed to listening to the people and representing their best interests in assuring the best education possible for the children of Cobb County.
And that is more good news.