Thursday, December 1, 2011

The shape of things to come

SBE on the job, unofficially

On Tuesday, November 29, the Goochland School Board Elect (SBE) comprised of our five newly elected school board members met with school superintendent Dr. Linda Underwood for some orientation about school operations. The informal informational session was open to the public but was attended mostly by school staff.

The SBE is comprised of: Michael Payne District 1; Kevin Hazzard District 2; John Lumpkins District 3; Beth Hardy District 4 and John Wright District 5.

Hardy, acting as spox for the group, began the session with a brief statement thanking everyone for their support during the election. “We are truly humbled,” she said.

Humble is undoubtedly a word and concept unfamiliar to the vanquished incumbents. Its use by the SBE is a clear indication that things have already changed radically for the better.

The SBE hit the ground running by attending the Virginia School Board Association Conference the week after the election. They attended a total of 27 different sessions collectively, and are sharing the information gleaned.

Hardy added that the SBE is working hard to ensure a smooth transition when it officially takes office. Also, the SBE is actively engaged in preparation of next year’s school budget, which will be presented to the new supervisors on January 3.

That too is good news. There will be no repeat of Underwood metaphorically waving her PhD at the supervisors and saying she knows best how to craft a school budget. Indeed, some of those who took issue with past school budgets will be her bosses next year.

Underwood began her presentation with excerpts from the Code of Virginia outlining the duties and responsibilities of local school boards.
Much of the information was inside baseball. The SBE focused on Underwood’s every word.

The organization chart, which Underwood indicated has been in place for about four years, would give Rube Goldberg a headache. She said that, although it seems confusing, everyone “works the work that needs to be done to make it work for our kids” or something.

Unfunded federal and state regulatory reporting requirements burden most aspects of the school system, said Underwood.

Obtaining accurate information about many aspects of the school system seems to be cumbersome at best.

To further complicate matters, the school system and county do not seem to have compatible accounting software, which requires data to be moved from one system to another manually. This wastes time and increases the possibility of error.

“We have to fix that,” Hazzard said.

Throughout Underwood’s presentation, the SBE paid careful attention and took copious notes. They asked on point questions about cost centers, budget classifications and other matters. There were more than a few discreetly raised eyebrows, subtle shudders and head shakes among the group at some of her statements.

At the conclusion of the meeting, Wright urged those present to contact any of the SBE with questions and comments. The days of unreturned phone calls and unanswered emails are over. No longer will school board members respond to parental queries with “it’s complicated and you wouldn’t understand” arrogance.

The path ahead for the SBE is amply strewn with challenge and opportunity. This fine group of citizens is up to the task and already at work.

Email for the SBE are:;;;;

1 comment:

Pat said...

It will be interesting to see how long the love fest for the newly elected will last. I don't doubt the intention of any of them to improve things, but with less money to work with... well, it will get interesting...

One of the overriding themes of the meeting, that I think you overlooked Sandie, is just how much of what they do is controlled by state and federal mandates. I was at that meeting as well, and this subject came up again and again.