Should all elected members of local boards of education in Georgia have at least a high-school diploma or a GED?
Without a doubt. But beyond that fairly basic requirement, it will take considerable debate to find agreement on proposed new statewide school board guidelines from a task force studying Georgia's school boards.
After the debacle earlier this year in which the Clayton County Board of Education lost its accreditation, the state school board created the Commission for School Board Excellence.
The group's charge was to study best practices for school boards. Minimum education level is just one recommendation; the agency also suggests, for example, setting statewide policies on conflicts of interest and ethics; that roles of board members and superintendents be clarified; and that elections of board members be non-partisan.
"If Georgia can adopt most of these suggestions for change, the state will be a model for the nation in school board governance," says Mark Elgart, the president and chief executive officer of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools - the agency that yanked Clayton's accreditation.
Local board members are leery of the proposals as yet another example of the state trying to force top-down management.
"When things are run from a distance, you lose something," says Columbia County School Board chairman Regina Buccafusco. "All politics should be as local as possible."
To that end, the report deserves airing by the state's Legislature. There, lawmakers from districts all over the state can debate any changes with an eye toward preventing those recommendations from hamstringing systems that aren't part of the problem - like Columbia County.
Our county's lawmakers include state Rep. Lee Anderson and state Sen. Bill Jackson, both of whom served on the Columbia County Board of Education. And both Anderson and state Rep. Ben Harbin are married to educators.
There's every reason to believe Columbia County's interests will be well-served in such a debate, as lawmakers statewide work to prevent another Clayton County.
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