Chattahoochee Chatter: Neighbors helping neighbors

January 15, 2014 

Let's start this week's Chatter with neighbors helping neighbors. We continue to be impressed with the neighborhood watch system called Windemede, which emails notices to residents in Muscogee County northeast panhandle and parts of Harris County. This one Monday from Becky Langston, the Harris County District 3 commissioner, shows the potential power of compassion beyond the alerts about burglaries and lost dogs:

"The devastating home fire in Ellerslie left a neighbor family without any belongings. There is an immediate need for clothing for the family. Share if any of you would like to help out. Sizes are listed below:

Mom -- pants -- 8-10; shirts -- med &large; shoes -- 8

Dad -- pants -- 32x32; shirts -- large; shoes -- 9

Dylan -- 8 yrs old -- 7T clothes; shoes -- 2

Ryan -- 4 yrs old -- pants -- 3T; shirts -- 4T; shoes -- 9 toddler

Abby -- 4 yrs old -- pants & shirts -- 3T; shoes -- 7 toddler

Dustin -- 15 yrs old -- pants -- 32x32; shirts -- med; shoes 11 1/2

Payton (boy) 13 yrs old -- pants 29x30; shirts -- med; shoes 10 1/2

The Ellerslie Depot will be open until 7 p.m. today and every day this week for dropoffs. Also, monetary donations may be made to CB&T, Ellerslie Fire Department Relief Fund."

•••

From the righteous to the ridiculous, we bring you these excerpts from Monday night's Muscogee County School Board work session, where, for more than 20 minutes, the board engaged in a convoluted and comical discussion about whether to explore changing its policy for naming schools.

Cathy Williams, the nine-member board's lone county-wide representative, objects to the policy that gives the board member who represents the district where the new school is being built the privilege of recommending the name to the board for approval.

Williams: "As the representative of every school, I think there should be broader input, not only from the at-large position and the district position, but also the community at large. … Perhaps if I could

be so bold as to recommend a subcommittee that you appoint three or four board members, maybe a couple of cabinet members, maybe a couple of principals, maybe a couple of citizens. I don't care, whatever you want, but just try to get a fairly broad and inclusive subcommittee to come back with recommendations with some of those sensitivities that have been discussed."

Board chairman Rob Varner of District 5: "Well, you read my mind."

Beth Harris of District 8: "Why can't we just come to consensus now because I think it should be left alone. So if there's enough people who say that tonight, all this is moot."

Williams: "Mainly because this is a work session, we don't take a vote, a consensus vote, in a work session. That's why the chair is trying to advance it to actually vote on it next week."

Superintendent David Lewis: "At the direction of the board, I will bring a recommendation to the board at next week's meeting that we explore the possibility of changing the policy, based upon a subcommittee's findings, which are then brought back for your consideration."

Naomi Buckner of District 4: "I'm just doing language now. Are you recommending that we explore? If we explore, it doesn't mean that we are fixing to change it. So what are you recommending?"

Williams: "Any potential changes to the policy will come back to this board for more discussion and a more final vote. This is moving the process forward."

Board vice chairwoman Pat Hugley Green of District 1: "We're repeating ourselves. Ms. Buckner is correct. Language is very important because somebody says we're going to change it, and now we're going to explore it. There is a difference between exploring and changing."

Williams: "To cease beating a dead horse, let me try -- and Mr. Varner, if I don't get this right, jump in -- we're going to next week explore a vote to allow the superintendent and the board chair and the board vice chair to formulate a committee to look at potential changes to the policy that the board will then consider."

Buckner: "Will that be part of your recommendation?"

Lewis: "I will bring a recommendation. You either vote it up or vote it down, whether that includes going forward with a policy change or bringing those changes to you for a vote."

John Wells of District 2: "We may not want to vote for your recommendation. You're the superintendent. If we vote down your recommendation, that means we're voting against the superintendent. We haven't voted against any of your recommendations yet. (Lewis was hired in July.) So I don't think I would go out with something like that, that you may get a negative vote. It might be a positive vote, but it may not. I don't think …"

Williams tries to interrupt.

Wells: "Will you just let me say something, or do you want the floor back again?"

Williams: "I'll take the floor back. (To Varner) Do you want to poll the board so the superintendent can have an idea of which direction to move in?"

Harris: "What's the difference between a poll and getting a consensus?"

Wells: "I think this has gone too far."

Williams: "It has gone too far. It's a little ridiculous."

Green: "The simple thing seems difficult because I don't know that we've ever had a subcommittee to determine whether we're going to change a policy."

Williams: "I'm not done. I don't think 'because we've never done it this way before' is an appropriate answer. There are some board members that do feel this policy needs massaging. There are some board members that do not. … The chairman is attempting to move it to a vote for whether or not you think we need to look at it or not. It's not complicated."

Green: "I think what we're being asked to do next week is very clear, but the heartburn is getting a subcommittee to determine whether or not we want to change the policy."

Williams: "OK, I'm not sure I understand that, but I believe that concludes my report, Mr. Chairman. I don't know where you are now."

Varner: "That's fine. Something will show up on the agenda next week. I'm not sure what it's going to be, but …"

And the tense exchanges end with easy chuckles.

Note: Athavia "A.J." Senior of District 3, Mark Cantrell of District 6 and Shannon Smallman of District 7 stayed out of the hullabaloo.

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