New school board on the job
On January 4, an entirely new Goochland County School Board held its organizational meeting. Beth Hardy, District 4 was elected chair. John Wright, District 5 will serve as vice chair. Other members are Michael Payne, District 1; Kevin Hazzard, District 2 and John Lumpkins, District 3.
Hardy said that she was both honored and humbled by her selection as chair. She also thanked the citizens for taking part in the recent historic elections. She said that the new school board understands that it is sworn to serve and will work hard to restore credibility and trust in its actions.
Getting down to nuts and bolts, Hardy said that complete school board meeting agendas will be posted on the school website in a timely manner. This will encourage, rather than stifle, informed comment during the sessions.
(Agendas and packets are available under the school board tab at www.glnd.k12.va.us. Budget information is expected to be posted there as it becomes available also.)
Hardy said that the new board is seeking ways to improve things and welcomes citizen input on any matter.
The most pressing item currently before the school board, said Hardy, is the budget for fiscal year 2012-13. Crafting the budget is an enormous and difficult task that is well worth the effort.
To that end, the school board will meet every Tuesday evening in January at the high school. All meetings will begin at 7 p.m. A joint budget meeting with the board of supervisors will be held on February 13.
This is the fulfillment of campaign promises by all newly elected supervisors and school board members to work together. We can expect meaningful discussion between the two boards and a thoughtful, innovative approach to money matters, which will lead to workable and mutually acceptable budget strategies.
This will be an important change from the counterproductive snarky comments and open hostility that characterized joint meetings in the past.
All supervisors attended the January 4 meeting and all school board members attended the supervisors’ meeting on January 3. This signal of collaboration rather than confrontation between the two boards bodes well for the future.
To be sure, hard fiscal decisions must be made in the next few months. This new school board began working on the budget as soon as the ballots were counted in November. It will squeeze each penny in the school budge until it bleeds to ensure that public funds are spent wisely to benefit our kids.
Another first for a Goochland School Board was adoption of a code of ethics.
During the public comment period, all school board members listened attentively and took notes unlike their predecessors who tended to ignore citizens who made the effort to comment at meetings.
The January 17 meeting will be a budget workshop to provide an opportunity for two way discussions. Wright and Hazzard said that they want to make the budget process more “conversational” and encourage public participation.
“This will be something of an experiment,” explained Hazzard. “Everything is fair game.”
This new attitude toward citizen participation in the budget process is the first step on a difficult path to a better way of doing things.
Goochland is truly blessed that these five citizens were selected by the voters to oversee our schools. All of them have been engaged in local public education for some time. Their children attend county schools and they know first-hand the strengths and weaknesses of our system. They bring complementary skills and outlooks to their daunting task.
Things are looking up.