Better cooperation needed

Published 9:19 pm Monday, January 7, 2019

The new School Board wasted little time displaying dysfunction at its reorganizational meeting on Thursday, and we hope this is not an example of what the next few years will look like in our school system’s administration.

The meeting was going along fine until it came time to make appointments to a number of boards and committees on which School Board members serve. Only one or two members, plus alternates, are allowed for each of these bodies, but there were several volunteers for most of the positions.

The board didn’t appear to know how to deal with this issue, and it was clear that new member Sherri Story, in particular, felt that she was being sidelined.

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The exchange was painfully awkward for onlookers and likely for some of those on the dais as well. And for most, it was hard to believe that the School Board had no better way of performing these committee assignments than to just see who spoke up and volunteered.

Appointments to these various committees certainly shouldn’t be done randomly or arbitrarily. The committees — including the ACCESS College Foundation board, City Council liaisons, finance, special education, student discipline, the Suffolk Education Foundation and more — encompass a wide variety of specialties, and School Board members interested or well-versed in the topics of a certain committee should have the opportunity to put that to good use. Anything less would be a disservice to the committee members, the nonprofit organizations that have invited board members from the School Board and to the taxpayers.

But what to do when there are more members interested in serving than are permitted on the committee? The board, it seems, didn’t have an answer, and its attorney’s solution — that those interested in serving should make sure they speak up first — should be looked at as temporary at best.

At the end of the meeting, it was a newly elected member and one of the youngest, if not the youngest, ever to serve on the board — Suffolk Borough representative Tyron Riddick — who spoke up with a common-sense solution.

Riddick proposed establishing a protocol for selecting committee members, stating it would be “in the best interest of our taxpayers if we have a more structured approach.”

This is precisely the reason why new energy — especially lots of it at once — is healthy for government. Challenging the old ways of doing things is good.

A speedy resolution to this issue will allow the School Board members to work together more effectively and move on to doing what they were elected to do — help make Suffolk Public Schools one of the best districts in the state.