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Better communication would benefit students

Staff Report • Dec 3, 2012 at 11:14 AM

We are living in a technology age that has given humans a multitude of methods for sending information from one person to another. We have laptops, smartphones and iPads that give us the ability to send information instantaneously over great distances.

Email, Facebook and Twitter have become key components of work and personal correspondence. But even in this glorious age of information, communication remains a problem.

A year ago, we lamented in this very space over an embarrassing lapse of communication between members of the Johnson City Board of Education and the City Commission. At that time, it was a difference of opinion between the two entities concerning an estimated deficit in the school budget for the new fiscal year.

School officials later complained that the city government had spent money from the schools’ contingency fund without the permission — and in some cases, without the knowledge — of the school board.

Now, it’s a communication breakdown between the Washington County Commission and the Washington County School System. On Monday, several county commissioners were heard voicing their concerns over a lack of communication between the County Commission and the school board when it came to new projects that weren’t included in this year’s school budget.

State law clearly delineates the authority of the two boards. In short, the Board of Education is responsible for hiring the director of schools and setting policy for the school system. School board members also have the power to prepare a budget, but spending has to be approved by the County Commission. That means commissioners ultimately control the purse strings of county schools.

This has been a major point of contention between the two boards over the years — particularly in terms of capital projects.

Commissioners have not always been trusting when it comes to the decisions the school system makes on major school building projects. On the other hand, school board members have not always respected the authority of commissioners to make these tough fiscal decisions.

Adding to the confusion has been the practice of the two boards talking at each other instead of talking to each other.

Perhaps it would be a good idea for the two boards to meet regularly to discuss important issues.

Improving education is often cited by local politicians as one of their top priorities. Sadly, it seems, it’s not important enough to merit a few special-called meetings of the two boards.

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