I was beseeched by several readers to look at the video of Thursday’s Cherokee County Board of Education meeting. The readers contended that new board member Kelly Marlow tangled with Cherokee Superintendent Frank Petruzielo over a minor issue and wasted a lot of time.
After watching the video, I have to agree that time was frittered away on what seemed a minor point on the dues being spent by the district — approved in the budget last year — for the Georgia School Boards Association.
And the audience seemed to concur, applauding in the video when an exasperated Petruzielo finally said, “I can’t imagine we are spending really this much time on something this inconsequential, particularly with the kinds of issues we just talked about in the work session that are so consequential to the future of this system.”
Marlow ran for the office as a watchdog and a reformer, and that is the role she clearly intends to fulfill even at the cost of creating discomfort.
I happen to like discomfort, believing that a dose of it is healthy for every elected body.
But the discomfort that Marlow caused wasn’t because she raised a critical concern about student achievement and delivered strong evidence to back it up. She caused discomfort because she came across as uninformed and unprepared, getting petulant over her inability to fend off a vote on Petruzielo’s recommendation because of Robert’s Rules of Order.
Here is my advice to Marlow and any new board member: If you want to challenge the superintendent and the process — which you have every right to do – learn how to do it effectively. And make it count.
I was surprised at the questions Marlow asked about how and when items got on the agenda. I was stunned when she suggested that the school chief make a motion, something that only a school board member can do. Her comment bespoke a serious gap in her grasp of basic board governance. (And we all know how important that is to SACS.)
Frustrated that she couldn’t stop a vote on a recommendation from Petruzielo, Marlow said, “I am not sure what my role is anymore. I am not exactly sure.”
It’s the responsibility of elected officials to understand both the power of their office and the limits. When the suspended DeKalb school board was questioned on abusing its role by the state board, several members also raised the problem of being unclear about their proper role.
Their comments aggravated state Board of Education member Brian Burdette, who told the DeKalb officials something Marlow should heed:
“As a board member, you are supposed to know what you can and cannot do. If you don’t know, it is up to you to find out and police yourselves. It is incumbent on you all. It is not incumbent on SACS. It isn’t incumbent on this board. It is incumbent on you to fix it.”
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog