The Critical Balance: School Board Members and the Superintendent in Cobb County, Georgia

Quill pan and ink in article about absentee ballots

[This Letter to the Editor is by Laura Judge, candidate for Cobb County Board of Education Post 5]

As we pay more attention to our educational system, we notice that school board members and superintendents play pivotal roles. To many, their decisions and actions might seem to overlap, but understanding the difference between the two is key to ensuring our schools run efficiently and effectively. There is a clear distinction of power and responsibility for each position. The board, elected by the public, sets district direction and policy, approves budgets, and oversees the superintendent. The superintendent, in turn, acts as the district’s CEO, ensuring board policies are implemented and making administrative decisions.

Recently, a board member wanted to update a board policy that hadn’t been updated since 2012 and was accused of micromanaging the superintendent. However, there’s a fine line between management and micromanagement. Management ensures that the board’s vision and policies are carried out effectively. Micromanagement, on the other hand, involves diving into daily operations best left to the superintendent and school administrators. This not only oversteps the board’s purview but can hamper the efficient running of our schools.

A politically aligned superintendent and board majority may seem harmonious, but there’s a potential pitfall here. Currently, the board majority and the superintendent simply mirror each other’s views, and we are risking a critical voice: the parents. Without active and open channels of communication, parental concerns can go unheard, putting our parental rights in jeopardy. In essence, there is an echo chamber that has been created, one that doesn’t necessarily reflect the broader community’s needs or concerns and essentially putting student success in jeopardy. For many years, we have seen stakeholders come to speak up about bullying, mental health, harassment, and transparency of decisions, but many times their voices are ignored. 

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Which brings me to the importance of codifying our policies and procedures. By clearly defining and documenting the roles, responsibilities, and processes, we ensure that everyone — from board members to parents to teachers — understands how our system works. This will not only promote transparency but can also safeguard our district from potential litigation. Given that school lawsuits can have significant financial implications on the taxpayer and reputational implications on the district, it’s critical to address potential areas of contention beforehand. Georgia’s state laws emphasize this balance, pushing for local control within a framework that prioritizes accountability and community engagement. For our school district to thrive, we need a harmonious but distinctly defined relationship between our school board and the superintendent. I look forward to the day when each role respects each other’s unique responsibilities so that we can lay the groundwork for an educational system that truly serves our community.

Laura Judge

East Cobb

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