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County supervisors participated in a joint meeting hosted by the school board Monday. School board members spoke with urgency about the potential for a decline in education quality after budget cuts.
Tuesday, September 24, 2013
In a tumultuous May of negotiations that saw Franklin County’s school board chairman resign over the loss of middle school sports to budget concerns, the point of view that made the cuts look tragic to school board members was largely unattainable for the county’s board of supervisors.
It was only later, after weeks of debate and finger-pointing over the cause of the cuts, that someone shared one educational viewpoint on middle school sports with David Cundiff, the board of supervisors chairman.
The governing body was already moving toward an additional $300,000 allocation to save the sports and several other programs when he saw where some school officials were coming from.
“Sitting down and talking to them, it was eye-opening to know that the way society is now . A lot of these youngsters go to school, play sports, and the sports help them to become productive adults,” Cundiff said. “An important reason they come to school is to be somebody in a sport. And in order to play that sport, there is a standard where you have to have at least a ‘C’ average. That helps them learn, gives them discipline and also gives them something to enjoy.”
Cundiff and the rest of the supervisors participated in a joint meeting hosted by the school board Monday night where the two boards discussed ideas for easing the annual strife over the schools budget.
The school board has made the first move, creating subcommittees to address its budget and its six-year plan. On Monday, school board Chairwoman Sarah Alexander invited supervisors to join each subcommittee to open up a constant dialogue.
“I want the community to see both boards are invested in the future of education,” Alexander said.
School board member G.B. Washburn, who has already been appointed to the budget subcommittee, said during the discussion that the budget process often boils over into a tense few weeks when all the variables are considered at once.
Bill Brush, the other school board member appointed to the budget subcommittee, said year-round communication could make difficult decisions like this year’s sports debate easier to foresee and consider come spring.
“The earlier we get together, the more we can answer questions and talk about issues we see coming up,” he said.
School board members spoke with urgency about the potential for a decline in education quality, pointing out lagging graduation rates and a shortage of alternative education programs geared toward helping disadvantaged students.
“The more we look at data, the scarier and scarier it gets,” Washburn said. “We do a lot of things very well, but we’re slipping in those areas.”
Alexander, in an appeal to the shared interests of the boards in the room, pointed out the impact schools can have on a county’s future prospects.
“To have a viable, progressive, developing county, you need to have a work force that is trained,” she said.
But the type of careful decisions necessary to build a work force and bolster economic development are difficult to make among flying accusations. And amid the calmer atmosphere of the fall, with the next allocation more than half a year away, schools Superintendent Mark Church used those shared goals as a reminder that “there really aren’t hidden agendas.”
Cundiff said supervisors would join the subcommittees. The appointments will be made by Oct. 15, he said. Adding to the communication efforts, he said a financial system holding the records of both the county government and the school system is fully implemented and likely to improve funding estimates.
A reduced number of surprises could also serve to cool down what Supervisor Bobby Thompson called the “hot button issue” of carryover money. That issue comes up at the end of the fiscal year when the schools ask to use the leftover funds from their budget that would return to the county’s general fund by law.
“The more we communicate, the more we trust each other and the numbers,” Thompson said.
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