It took more time to create a task force to study the idea of having an at-large elected Columbia County school board chairman than it did for the 19-member group to reach their conclusion.
At Tuesday's school board meeting, the task force released their report -- a document that questioned the validity of last year's ballot question, denied the need for an at-large chairman and instead recommended that officials consider adding members to the board.
"It is the Task Force's conclusion that there is no compelling argument that changing to an at large elected countywide chairperson of the CCBOE would add value or improve the educational, governance, or administrative processes of the school system," the report said.
The task force was established in February, six months after 85 percent of Republican voters responded favorably to a straw poll asking if they would favor having a chairman elected by countywide vote.
The task force "is of the opinion that the wording of the question has somewhat of a tendency to solicit a 'yes vote,' " and "Since the results of the Aug. 20, 2002 referendum was a partisan vote and was not initiated by the CCBOE, the task force concludes that the CCBOE is not obligated to take any action based on the results of that vote," the report said.
Board member Lee Muns challenged the task force's findings.
"If every person who voted Democrat voted no, the yeas still would have won out," Muns said. "I don't want to question the intelligence of the people in my district, the majority of which voted for it. If we take no action and do nothing, we are telling the people that their right to vote or voice their opinion is of no consequence."
While the task force did not throw its support behind the at-large chairman idea, they did recommended that the board study the need to increase board membership and allow voters to vote on the proposed changes in a nonpartisan, nonbinding referendum.
Since 1945, the Columbia County school board has been composed of five members elected on a nonpartisan basis. Each member represents a district. Each member serves a four-year term, and the terms are staggered. An increase in the board would likely bring the number of board members to seven, task force chairman Don Thornhill said.
"There's no magic formula when it comes to determining the number of representatives," he said.
Only 17 of the state's 183 school systems have countywide elected chairmen and chairwomen.
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