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School board discusses current, long-term topics at retreat
Gainesville City Schools wants to collect more input from community
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The Gainesville City Schools board discussed ways to handle personnel issues and collect more input from the community, among other topics, during a two-hour retreat Tuesday.

Board member Maria Calkins said the annual meeting was designed to get all five members on the same page. They also review current and long-term topics.

"It's a talk about how we want to lead and run things," Calkins said.

"We also come to understand things in a deeper fashion."

One focus of the retreat at Sweet Magnolias in downtown Gainesville was how to best assist the superintendent with renewing and issuing personnel contracts.

Board member David Syfan said it's important for the board to let its ideas be known when the superintendent presents a recommendation.

"People want citizens at the top to guide the professionals and I see that as part of our role. If we want to hold personnel to a higher standard, as a voice of the community, that's something we need to let them know," he said.

The board also delved into a conversation from the previous night's school board meeting.

The board aims to involve the community more in education, and better utilize the charter school leadership team, which was formed about three years ago.

Among its duties, the team offers recommendations to the superintendent about issues such as policy, rules and regulations.

It is made up of members of the community, parents and principals who meet three times a year.

Recently, the team said it felt under utilized and wanted to provide more help.

Calkins said the leadership team could serve as an advisory group to the school board.

The board also discussed ways to build effective teams in the future.

"If I were to have the perfect advisory group, it would represent the diversity in the schools," Calkins said.

Board chairman Willie Mitchell said one of the most productive conversations involved Gainesville Middle School.

Each day, students have a 50-minute enhancement period, where students can get extra help from teachers or work on homework.

Calkins said she wanted to learn more about the program.

"I don't think it's not a great idea, but at this time right now with our budget, do we have the resources to support it?" she asked.

Board members want to determine if parents and students find it beneficial. They plan to see if the charter leadership team could help provide input.

Mitchell said finding the right solutions for students is an important part of the board's mission.

"Anytime the discussion involves students and how to better help them, I feel that's the most important work we do," he said.

The board hopes to continue some of the discussions at future school board meetings.


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