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Is the elected board worth it?

Published 12:22am Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Hartselle Board of Education will have its first elected school board this year. After hearing anticipation from several community members, I thought we would have a large slate of candidates for these five elected positions.

If things didn’t change late Tuesday afternoon, it appears like we’re only going to have competition for at most two places on the Board of Education.

I don’t know if the electorate is happy with most of the current five board members or if the excitement of having an elected board of education has worn off. But it just doesn’t appear like residents care whether their board of education is appointed or elected.

Before I go any further, I would like you to know that I have no preference for whether the board of education is elected or not. (As a side note, however, I do prefer having an appointed school superintendent. I believe you should have a certified professional to handle the day-to-day operations of the school system.)

There is good and bad to having elected and appointed school boards. You can have a very successful board of education in either system, but it can be more difficult in an elected school board.

When you’re in an elected position, you are always campaigning to keep that position. You will always try to do what your constituents want to keep them happy. If you do that, then you’ll have a much easier time to get re-elected the next time.

And while it’s good to always continue to be responsive to the needs and wants of a community, sometimes those desires are not in the best interests of the children or the school system itself.

As long as the elected school board can keep its priorities in the right perspective, an elected school board can serve the community as well or possibly better than the appointed school boards of the past.

One of the good things about an elected school board is that board members will give the appearance of openness. This could be shown in more discussion in meetings. That doesn’t mean appointed boards are more secretive than elected, but on the surface, it could appear that way.

However, if voters do not have a choice on the ballot, I don’t see where this is different than having an appointed school board.

As of midday Tuesday, four of the five current school board members didn’t have an opponent. Another was expected to qualify for the BOE just before the deadline. If that’s the case, then three of the board members will be elected without a vote.

The only difference that I see is that we the citizens are paying $30,000 for holding offices that people used to volunteer for. Is that extra money worth it?

I guess we will find out in the coming years.

Brent Maze is the managing editor of the Hartselle Enquirer.

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