Dawn Hankins

Pencil Shavings

Dawn Hankins is a staff writer for the Times-Gazette.

Thank school board members: Get involved in education

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

This is Tennessee School Board Appreciation Week. It's a great time set aside by Tennessee School Board Association (TSBA) to focus on the crucial role an elected school board member plays in our communities and schools.

During certain times of the year, school board members are lavished with gifts from educators and students. All seem very appreciative of those gestures.

TSBA advises communities to go one step further to show school board members they're appreciated. Take time to shake a board member's hand. Thank your top education leaders for their dedication and long, thank-less hours.

Their work doesn't encompass just monthly school board meetings. The district representatives get emails and phone calls every day from constituents and sometimes late into the night. (Yes, one of those might be me!)

Bedford County school board representatives are John Boutwell, Diane Neeley, David Brown, Andrea Anderson, Michael Cook, Glenn Forsee, Brian Crews, Dan Reed and Nicole Cashion. Dan and Nicole are just getting their feet wet after being elected in August.

I like this statement of praise from TSBA: "They are extraordinary people who voluntarily tackle the enormous job of governing school districts. Their actions and decisions affect the present and future lives of our children."

This is Tennessee School Board Appreciation Week, and while she’s not a member of the board, board secretary Suzanne Alexander is essential to its operation.
T-G Photo by Dawn Hankins

Having covered school board meetings, I recognize how hard these elected district representatives work. However, there's one person sitting in the board room that I think deserves a little more of an "atta girl": Suzanne Alexander, board secretary.

Suzanne's at every meeting, taking precise notes, making sure board members have everything they need from agendas to media presentations. She is also on hand to answer many administrative questions that arise during meetings.

Working in administration is a difficult job in and of itself (Been there.) Sometimes you don't even feel like you've raised your eyes above desk level all day.

So, thanks, Suzanne. I appreciate everything you do to keep the Times-Gazette apprised of meetings, etc. I know board members appreciate your every step.

The nine board members and the superintendent manage millions of dollars in school funds. It's a giant responsibility to equitably fund all 14 schools.

Forgive me English teachers, "It 'aint easy."

For this school system, the days of "making a silk purse out of a sow's ear" is about over. We've patched to the point of no return.

School board members also have the job of making sure every student has a safe and conducive learning environment. There are so many technology and school safety issues. One meeting alone can be spent on just those topics.

The job of an elected district representative is a never-ending circle of events, goals, strategies, e-plans, repairs, construction, security issues, negotiations and meetings. Let's not even open the lid on the complaint department.

Agree with them or not, school boards can only succeed with community support. I've been told by people who know more about education than I that local education associations (LEAs) have many more challenges ahead.

There's a new Tennessee governor and a new education commissioner -- an educator recently brought into Tennessee from Texas. (That's another column for the future.) So it will be interesting to see what's on the education horizon as we press forward into another school year.

Right now, school systems across the country have to worry about one more thing-the impact of the federal government shut-down on education. Locally, all is well, for now, superintendent Don Embry recently said.

Other more pressing concerns here for the board involve finishing the new Cascade High School and then moving on to additions at Learning Way. Other schools stand in the wings with their own issues and needs.

No matter the local needs, Tennessee Department of Education isn't relenting when it comes to advising districts and schools to rise to the occasion toward excellence. Education can no longer teeter on the margin of error.

The state is serious about improving Report Card scores, both on state and national levels. To do that, the state has set what it calls some "ambitious" goals for the next five years for local education associations. The plan is called, "Where Are We Going?"

Local school board has held extra study sessions the last couple months for strategic planning. Plans demonstrate to the state how are we going to promote local education toward excellence. We will be covering those goals more in future news stories.

So this week, thank your local school board members. There is much to do in the way of local education.

Though momentos are nice, I suspect the greatest gift to board members, all state expectations considered, is the involvement of every parent in a productive way in their child's education.

Don't wait too late to ask a school board member, "What can I do to help?"

The state clock of progress is advancing, minute by minute. Let's be on time this next five years.

--Dawn Hankins is a staff writer for the Times-Gazette.

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