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Gainesville school board split over possible new protocols
Rules give members structure for how to act as team
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The Gainesville school board was split Monday night in discussion of some its own new protocols.

Superintendent Wanda Creel said the purpose of the new protocols is to ensure staff members, families and the community view the board as an accountable, decisive, effective team with “shared beliefs about what is possible for all students.”

She presented the new Governance Team Operating Protocols at the work session. They were devised by looking at those created by other boards in the state.

Protocols provide structure for board members to behave as a team. Examples include procedures for how the board visits schools; acts as one body, with no single member acting unilaterally; communicates with staff and the media; and commits to spending less time on operational issues and maximum time on policies to improve student achievement.

Board members Sammy Smith and Willie Mitchell expressed some hesitation at the proposal.

While Smith asked when suggested revisions could be made, Mitchell questioned “the urgency” of approving the protocols this month.

Board Chair Delores Diaz said there is no urgency but “it’s a frustration,” because the district has been working on the protocols for nearly a year “and we can’t seem to make progress.”

“If this has taken such a long time to wrangle together, why can’t we take some time to go through it and make sure everybody is in agreement with it?” Mitchell said.

He stressed he will support the board and protocols, but wants time for review and revision.

Diaz said she “would ask respectfully” that the board get suggested changes or comments to her before the next board meeting March 21.

Board members John Filson and Brett Mercer did not share Smith and Mitchell’s concerns.

“I thought it read well and can see it lines up with the way we are supposed to act and the way we are supposed to interact with people,” Mercer said.

The suggested protocols can be viewed on the district’s eBoard site, under the “meetings” tab.

The meeting Monday was attended by Valarie Wilson, executive director of the Georgia State School Boards Association.

Diaz said Wilson was asked to attend because of her expertise in board governance documents. Wilson expressed her support of the creation of the protocols.

“This is an excellent model, because you’ve thought of everything,” Wilson said. “… I hope you’ll stick to this as closely as possible.”