I believe with all my heart that Appling County has one of the best school systems in the state. The great majority of administrators, teachers, paraprofessionals, cafeteria staff, bus drivers and other employees work extremely hard to make sure the children of Appling County have a brighter future.
I also believe that our current problem with SACS Accreditation has been the result of poor leadership plain and simple. Poor leadership by the Appling County School Board and the office of Superintendent of Appling County Schools have led us to this point in our community’s unfortunate history. Does that mean that good decisions were not made? No. Some decisions were good; but some were made in haste, with little or no thought given to the consequences of the decisions. (More attention to Georgia Law and system policies would have been a good idea.) Want proof? Read the findings in the SACS report in this week’s issue. It should also be noted that a portion of the findings were based upon the review team’s first-hand witness of meetings through video recordings; not solely based on opinions of people and staff interviewed that may have had an axe to grind.
However, since January 1, I have noticed a change in leadership of our school system that is certainly refreshing. Please keep in mind that when SACS last visited (December 2010), it was before the new superintendent and three new board members had taken office.
At the new board’s first meeting in January, board members and new Superintendent Scarlett Copeland welcomed citizens present at the meeting with open arms as well as input from those present. Several board members encouraged teachers, staff and citizens at the meeting to attend meetings, offer ideas and criticism, which they said would help them to do a better job.
Another area that has not gone unnoticed by this reporter is the fact that this board has not held a closed-door session thus far and everything has been kept completely in the open. I would like to point out that this is the manner in which the public’s government should be operated....keep meetings open and transparent. Are there appropriate times for a closed-door session? Yes, and Georgia Sunshine Law provides for situations in which a government entity can enter into a closed-door session. A word to the wise however, four-hour-long closed sessions do not set well with the public and create an environment of mistrust.
Is this the perfect board or the perfect superintendent? No. They will make mistakes and have already made a few minor mistakes. However, they have been quick to admit their mistakes and correct them immediately. That in itself speaks volumes.
At this point, I am optimistic about the future of the Appling County School System. If this board and superintendent stay on the present course, I believe when the SACS team returns later this year they will be pleasantly surprised at the progress achieved by our school system.