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Gainesville school board can't decide on permanent chairman

Post will rotate, but acting chairman will sign legal documents

POSTED: February 3, 2008 5:05 a.m.

The Gainesville school board voted Tuesday night to keep a chairman-of-the-month rotation through June, but, on the advice of board attorney Phil Hartley, selected an acting chairman to sign legal documents.

The board named Kelvin Simmons to that role and David Syfan interim vice chairman. The board may decide after June to select a full-time chairman and vice chairman to serve out the one-year term that usually begins after the first meeting in January.

Who serves as chairman doesn’t normally stir long debate. It did this year after Simmons and Syfan emerged as candidates for the post.

Simmons, on the board since 1991, has served as chairman during his tenure. Syfan, who has been on the board since 2002, has not.

"It’s a shame we can’t come up with a board chair," Simmons said Tuesday. "Let’s put our differences behind us."

Hartley told the school board that Georgia requires a board chairman to preside over meetings and sign official documents.

"If the board of education feels ... that you are not prepared to make that selection, obviously you would be in a position where you could name an acting chair," he said.

"As long as that person is willing to assume the role with the understanding that it is (temporary), that’s between that person elected and the board."

Hartley said he had concerns that "the month-to-month chair situation would create, in some circumstances, some potential confusion that could have legal consequences, when we get down to who signs what contracts (and) when do they get signed."

The set-up "creates some issues that we just as soon avoid, if we could, and the acting chair gets around that complication," Hartley said.

Based on the rotation, Syfan was handling chairman duties at Tuesday’s meeting.

"David, I think you did a super job tonight of running things," Simmons said in a discussion on the issue that took place at the end of the meeting.

Syfan said that whoever "is chair, acting chair, vice chair" doesn’t matter.

"The community needs to know ... that we all are united in trying to do what we can for every child and be sure every child gets a quality education."

The board also voted to name new board member Sammy Smith as treasurer.


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