Five of the most civic-minded people in Columbia County serve on the county's Board of Education. Some of the county's smartest business people serve on the board of the Chamber of Commerce.
So it really should not be hard to get the two to agree on a better relationship.
For longer than most people can remember, the school system has worked very closely with the chamber. In fact, before there was a chamber, legendary school Superintendent John Pierce Blanchard himself was a one-man chamber of commerce for the county.
In recent years, the county's chamber has become a standalone entity separate from Augusta's chamber, with whom it has long had a working relationship. As Columbia County's chamber has grown and developed its own identity, its members also have become more aware of its value as a voice for the business community.
Businesses in Columbia County likewise are well aware of the value of the county's school system as the top attraction for new families moving to the area and as the county's largest employer.
Clearly, a relationship between the two is vital. The good news is that no one disagrees.
The bad news? The chamber, as has happened periodically through the years, checked its books and noticed the school system isn't a chamber member.
Because the chamber is a member-based organization - it isn't a charity - it is reasonable to expect it to focus on working with its members. So it has asked the school system to formalize the relationship by joining.
The school system's attorney says state law and the state Constitution don't allow school funds to be used for non-educational purposes, and that includes paying chamber dues.
Fine, the chamber says; a member of its board has offered, anonymously, to pay the $300 dues. But school officials seem squeamish about that suggestion, even though they've shown near avaricious glee in soliciting donations of thousands of dollars and services from "school/business partners" to pay for things the law also doesn't sanction, such as teacher banquets.
Meanwhile, chamber officials are making vindictive noises, threatening to withhold part of a grant they solicited on the school system's behalf.
Clearly, cooler heads need to prevail. That's where the boards of the two bodies come in. They're all smart, good people; surely they can put those heads together and work out a better agreement.
The two are too important not to.
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