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Mercer takes over as Gainesville City Schools board chairman
Brett Mercer
Gainesville City Schools board Chairman Brett Mercer

Elected school officials in Gainesville started the new year by shuffling leadership roles.

After serving as chairwoman of the city school board for two years, Delores Diaz passed the gavel over to Brett Mercer.

“We have one-year terms, but because of transition issues I continued for a second year,” Diaz said Tuesday.

A school board member since 2013, Mercer moved into the chairman’s role for the first time following the election of board officers during Monday night’s meeting.

“I’m looking forward to it,” Mercer told The Times on Tuesday about his new leadership role.

John Filson, who joined the school board in 2015, became the vice chair. In the past, Filson has extolled the board’s ability to work in tandem as a team with the single objective of helping every student succeed.

Board members also voted to retain Willie Mitchell as their treasurer.

The five-member school board, which also includes Sammy Smith, had its ups and downs in 2016.

The lowlight came amid a swirl of controversy surrounding plans for a new Enota Multiple Intelligences Academy. When members of the community learned that the plan would mean the disappearance of the iconic Smartville garden — a collaborative community project made possible by volunteers who donated time and money — school officials were accused of failing to effectively communicate with the community.

As part of an annual assessment by the board in 2016, three members indicated through an anonymous survey that “improvement is needed.”

The school board finished 2016 on a high note when it received “Exemplary School Board” recognition from the Georgia School Boards Association. The recognition goes to school boards that meet certain criteria, including board self-assessment, additional board training hours and the adoption of a strategic plan for the school district.