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Class Notes: Calkins named Gainesville school board chairwoman
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Maria Calkins

The Gainesville City Schools Board of Education will be under new leadership to start 2013.

During Monday’s meeting, it was announced that Maria Calkins will now serve as the chairwoman, replacing longtime board member Willie Mitchell.

“I’m excited because I have three children in the schools, so I’m a huge believer in our public school system and our obligation with every single child,” Calkins said.

Mitchell, who has been on the board since 1990, will act as treasurer.

Delores Diaz will now act as vice chairwoman, the role Calkins played for the last year.

Calkins’ new position, she said, will not be a dramatic change of pace.

“There’s really not that much difference,” she said. “For the last year or so, as vice chairman, I have been in charge of the board’s retreats.”

She said acting as chairwoman is mainly “just facilitating the meetings,” along with handling more of the day-to-day operations of the board.

Calkins, who has been on the board for five years, said her goals for the system align with the current goals of the board, including addressing the growing population of students, especially at the elementary level.

“We’re going to be looking at the overcrowding issues, getting the Fair Street (International Baccalaureate World) School open as soon as possible and then immediately turning around and addressing the need for more elementary school space and how we can do that quickly and leverage as much funding for that as soon as possible because schools are still growing,” Calkins said.

Apart from that, she said, the challenges that face all school systems, including a continuous decrease in government funding, will have to be tackled.

“Every year it’s a brand new challenge that we’re pulling in less revenue and having to do just as much, or more, for more kids,” she said. “It’s an ongoing, every-year challenge.”

Calkins’ background is in nonprofit management and she said what attracts her to the board of education is the role she plays as community liaison.

“I just love all of it,” she said. “I love being in the grocery store and listening to people and bringing that back to the board ... and making it work.”

The board nominates its own chairperson each year.

Mitchell’s voice mail was full and he could not be reached for comment.

Lee Johnson covers education issues for The Times. Share your thoughts, news tips and questions with him:

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