TIFTON — The Tift County Board of Education approved appointing Pat McKinnon to fill the unexpired term for District 2 at the Jan. 16 meeting.
The seat was left vacant after long-time educator and board member John W. Smith passed away in August 2019. He had just been reelected for the fifth consecutive term.
McKinnon will serve out the remainder of the four year term, which will end in 2022.
The board discussed updating the board’s policies at both the Jan. 14 workshop and the Jan. 16 meeting.
School Superintendent Adam Hathaway said that the last time the policies were reviewed was in 2009 and are due for an update. Many of the current policies have been rendered either redundant or unnecessary since the school system’s change to a charter system, according to Hathaway.
The board discussed making changes to policy sections A through E, which include school district organization, school board operations, general school administration, fiscal management and business management.
Several board members suggested changing policy BCBI, which covers public participation in board meetings.
The current policy states that any member of the public who wishes to address the board must submit a request at least five days in advance and must give the superintendent, in writing, their name, address and the subject of their remarks.
Board chair person Jonathan Jones and board member John Waddell suggested changing the policy.
“Our agenda is only published a handful of days in advance and people don’t know what we’re going to talk about,” Jones said. “They don’t know to request to be on the agenda.”
Jones said that the wording of the policy conveys a perception that the board doesn’t want to hear from the public.
He suggested making the time to request to speak shorter than five days.
The current policy also states that the board will have a specified time during each meeting for public comment. The board does not currently schedule such a time on the agenda, which Waddell said bothers him.
“Every time we’re approving this agenda, there’s nothing on this agenda right here that says public comment,” Waddell said. “We don’t want to be so insulated that people don’t feel like they can talk to us.”
Waddell suggested either putting time for public comment on the agenda or taking that language out of the policy.
Hathaway said that his concern about changing the policy revolved around the board being able to conduct necessary business without getting derailed.
“Our board meetings are not public meetings,” he said. “We are not like a board of commissioners, so this is not an open forum. Our board meetings are for us to address school issues and make those decisions and that sort of thing.
“Having said all of that, if we need public comment or a public comment is needed, we need to have public hearings and really dedicate a meeting, maybe not this board meeting, but a meeting of the board to hear comments from the public and to be able to give everyone time to give insight and have say and have input on the decisions we’re making. That’s a very crucial part of what we do, is listen to the community.”
The board’s policies do allow the board to call special called public meetings at their discretion.
Hathaway said there will be time at the Feb. 11 work session to discuss how exactly the policy will change.
The board is set to vote on policy changes for policy sections A-E at the Feb. 13 meeting.
The meetings will be held at 207 N Ridge Ave.