by Mel Griffith
Now that I am leaving the school board after eight years, perhaps it is time for some reflections on successes and disappointments. There was a lot of building in the last eight years. Two new schools were built and additions put on eight other schools. Bradley High was brought up to first-class condition and Ocoee Middle soon will be. Charleston is the only school in the system still in need of substantial work. I don't take any credit for any of this. It is all being paid for by the citizens of Bradley County and they deserve the credit for it.
Personally my two proudest accomplishments were telling the public about cost overruns at Walker Valley which some thought best kept secret, and getting rid of the absurd rules against wearing blue jeans to school. I managed the first all on my own, but I must give credit to the three board members who voted with me on the second. As is often the case when progress is made, not everyone was happy with either of these developments.
There are also disappointments that some things that obviously needed doing didn't get done. The dress code still looks like it was written by lunatics or mischievous ten-year-olds. I have been trying ever since this nonsense first appeared about seven years ago to get its supporters to go over it line by line and explain what each provision is supposed to accomplish. Nobody will do that, because the truth is, they didn't think it up in the first place, they just copied it from somewhere and have no idea why somebody included all the unnecessary provisions. If anybody thinks they have a rational explanation for why each of the provisions in the current code is needed, I will look forward to a letter to the editor providing the justification for them. The best they have been able to do so far is steamroller them through the board without any explanation for their need.
The school board also needs to hear from the public on a regular basis the same way the Commission does. I have tried to get this done, but the other members have been terrified that somebody would get up and criticize them and they wouldn't know what to do. Hopefully, the new board will be made up of people with more nerve.
There are a number of other tasks the new school board needs to address. One is rezoning. During my stay the board has been very reluctant to rezone in a timely manner. As a result, three schools on the north side are becoming jammed while there is plenty of room at Charleston (some of which needs repair). We are hauling students past Bradley High to Walker Valley, something that was started to boost enrollment at Walker Valley and is no longer needed.
One of the major tasks facing the school board is the development of a long-range plan. When we arrived in 1998 the board had just completed a plan and we have basically spent the past eight years implementing, with some modifications, that plan. Now all the useful parts of the plan have been done and it is time for a new one. We know that enrollment is growing and space will have to be added. There are various ideas about what to do, but there is no firm plan that tells what, where and how future needs are expected to be met. Hopefully, the board will not again have a study done by an architect who is trying to get the job of building what they recommend. That approach results in a lot of things being put in the plan primarily to increase architect fees, which is why not all the previous plan is useable. Whoever does the study needs to be impartial.
A lot has been accomplished in the last eight years. but there is plenty left for the new board to do.