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Board, council war hurts kids

By By Jack Greenhill
Every four years it seems, the voters in Hartselle decide the last mayor and council they elected were a big mistake and turn them out. There has been an almost complete change out in the last three elections at least.
Almost two years into the current term, the voters are beginning to grumble about the current set of aldermen. So come election year we are liable to see another crew of "new boys" taking the reigns of city government, learning the ropes and trying to take Hartselle in the direction they think is best for our fair city.
As a result of this merry-go-round of administrations, Hartselle has fallen behind surrounding communities in developing assets that may prove crucial to the welfare of the city.
While some administrations deserve to be turned out for incompetence, most need at least two terms to find their way and set in motion lasting positive programs.
But I'm not holding my breath in Hartselle.
However, because of the current "war" between the city council and the city school administration, the call for an elected school board and administrator is beginning to surface again and frankly, because of Hartselle's track record with city councils, that scares me.
Hartselle has two main points of attraction to people considering moving here: the schools and the support of the community for youth sports programs. Of course the most important of these is the schools.
I credit the quality of Hartselle's schools not to a single person, but rather to the stability that has prevailed in our school system from its beginning.
Carlton Smith guided the system from its beginning until 1984, when the reigns were handed to Lee Hartsell.
During both administrations, the Hartselle schools prospered and excelled until they were acknowledged as one of the top school systems in the state.
While both Smith and Hartsell must be given credit for guiding the system to its current position, the real hero in my view is the stability that has prevailed with the appointed school board system.
If anything needs to change at the school board, maybe it should be a change of attitude on the part of the board members.
When I was first employed at the Enquirer, fresh out of college more than 20 years ago, I was assigned the school board beat.
At that time Councilman Allen Stoner's father Richard "Dick" Stoner was on the board.
As I covered those meetings, there was never any doubt that the board was the "boss" and the superintendent the "employee." That attitude seems to have softened over the years. A return to a more hands-on approach by board members seems to be in order.
If the current flap results in an elected school board in Hartselle, or even an elected superintendent, I am concerned the same fruit-basket-turn-over malady that afflicts our city government will take up residence in the school board elections. That could result in the same inability to move forward our city government has displayed.
The organizers of Hartselle's school system chose an appointed school board for a variety of reasons. Insulating the people making the ultimate decisions from the whims of politics appears to be one of them.
The city council needs to appoint board members they feel will make the best decisions for the children – period. Appointments should not be made for control.
And board members need to remember the superintendent is accountable to them and hold him accountable when his actions do not foster the best interests of the children.
The current "war" between the council and school board is only hurting Hartselle and our children.