Two days before Thanksgiving, miles away from most of Columbia Countys population, school board members approved a new calendar for next year that creates additional breaks and spreads the 180-day school year over a few more days.
Love it? Hate it?
Doesnt matter. Its done.
This obviously hasnt set well with the trustee Lee Muns, who protested from the beginning that the calendar didnt receive adequate community feedback. This board does not do a very good job of listening to people, says Muns, upset that fellow trustees wouldnt delay approval long enough to allow more public input.
Other trustees disagree, approving the calendar over Muns objections. Curiously, fellow board members seem most distressed not by their disagreement with Muns, but that he objects in public.
Lets get this out on the table. It is not enough to simply say, as does Chairman Wayne Bridges, that he listens to everybody who talks. This school board, as a group, simply does not do a good job of listening to parents.
Sure, trustees answer their phones and e-mail. But individual trustees do not have any authority. It is only as a board, in full public view, that trustees may take action.
As a result, those individual conversations with parents - whether on the phone, in a school parking lot or in an e-mail message - have little real effect on the board as a corporate entity.
This newspaper has noted on numerous occasions that the Columbia County School Board has little patience for the public. Its meetings have the shortest public comment period of any local governing body at three minutes (the County Commission in contrast, allows 10 minutes per person). And it allows full-blown give-and-take sessions with the public only on only rare occasions.
In a couple of weeks, the board will hold a public hearing to discuss rezoning for the new elementary school under construction on Hereford Farm Road. That Dec. 12 session will offer parents an opportunity to see proposed attendance zones affecting as many as seven elementary schools.
School officials are stumped on changes for one of those schools, Martinez Elementary. As a result, Superintendent Tommy Price says, When we take it to the public, maybe somebody will come up with some ideas.
We believe the new calendar is a good one. But thats beside the point. Parental input, even if its just to vent, is an important part of the governing process. And like that pesky zone problem, those parents may have a few ideas, too - if theyre allowed to offer them.
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