Though some members of the Columbia County School are only reluctantly on board, local lawmakers seem to finally have convinced trustees that they need to initiate a study of the school boards structure.
Meeting with the members of the legislative delegation this past week, school trustees had issues of tremendous significance and concern to discuss - from problems with local control over decision-making, to concerns about budget shortfalls.
But the idea of allowing voters countywide to elect the chairman of the school board is one that trustees have been reluctant to discuss - except when they were dismissing the idea out of hand. In fact, in their session with lawmakers a year ago, trustees unanimously rejected the concept.
That unanimity has started to crumble as trustees realize voters really would like to see change. Echoing their November 2000 approval of a countywide elected Commission chairman, 85 percent of voters in this years Republican Party primary favored a straw-poll question seeking approval of an elected School Board chairman.
Since then, trustees have avoided the issue on the grounds that the current system works fine. Others argue that the non-binding ballot wasnt valid because not everybody could vote, the mantra of trustee Mickey Blackburn, who marked a Democratic ballot.
We believe the straw poll was valid, and would likely win similarly high approval from all voters. Still, trustee Roxanne Whitaker is right to call for the details of the elected chairmans authority to be fleshed out before the issue goes to voters.
Thats the best argument, in fact, for trustees to create a task force to study the issue. Following the model of the committee that studied the Commission post, trustees should appoint a diverse group - with participation from lawmakers - to see what type system would best suit the schools and give the best representation from stakeholding citizens.
Most of all, none of this should be seen as an attack on the current system; far from it. As state Rep. Ben Harbin frequently says, Columbia County is forward-thinking enough to examine its government before problems arise. This is precisely the best time to study - while everything is working OK.
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