Originally created 08/20/04

Advisory panel's use is debated



It sounded funny the way school board member Marion Barnes said it: The advisory board has never advised the board.

He was talking about the long-standing Richmond County Board of Education advisory committee, formed decades ago to counsel the school board and "make known special concerns of students, parents, teachers and the general public." Mr. Barnes said he's heard nothing from the group.

"Do they know what their responsibilities are?" he asked at last week's board meeting.

The school board seemed close to killing the established committee and turning to school councils for advice. Mr. Barnes paused, though, and asked to see the committee's bylaws at the Sept. 9 meeting.

While the school board considers the group's fate, Mr. Barnes' comments have put committee volunteers on the defensive.

"We have been asking the same questions (about responsibilities) because we have made recommendations to the board and they completely ignore us," said Barbara Seigler, the committee's secretary.

She said she fights for inner-city children whose parents won't speak out for them. Committee members visit schools and fill out written reports for the board.

Board President Jeff Padgett and Assistant Superintendent Virginia Bradshaw attend and help organize the committee meetings, which are generally held each month during the school year. "We are thinking that what we are saying gets back to the trustees, but I guess it's not," Ms. Seigler said.

Mr. Padgett said he has tried to provide structure by arranging presentations from various school departments. "What we tried to do was keep these people informed," he said.

Committee members say they do serve a purpose and have fought to ease bus overcrowding, improve vocational classes and get needed supplies for teachers. The group, made up of parents and community members, says it has a way of finding out about problems.

"You have some teachers who don't want to talk to board members because they feel they will get in trouble," committee member Stephen Pryor said.

Brenda Goodwin, the panel's vice president, said she uses the meetings to "harp" about the vocational departments.

"At least once a week, I'm in the schools," she said.

Reach Greg Rickabaugh at (706) 828-3851 or greg.rickabaugh@augustachronicle.com.

Marion Barnes: Richmond County Board of Education member says he has heard nothing from the advisory committee.