After seating two new members last week and selecting a new chairman, the Bulloch County Board of Education will hold a special, but open, meeting Saturday to look at its strategic plan for the schools and hear reports from staff.
Called a retreat, but held in the board's headquarters at the William James Educational Complex, the meeting is slated to last from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m.
Dr. LeVon E. Wilson is the board's chairman for 2015, selected by a majority of the members during their Jan. 15 organizational meeting. A different Wilson, Bulloch County Schools Superintendent Charles Wilson, led the meeting until the members could elect their top posts.
As has been done for several years, the eight-member board selected its leadership by secret votes on paper ballots. Susan Cox, the board's attorney, first had members make nominations using a form, and then announced that Dr. Wilson, previous chairman Maurice Hill and Mike Sparks were the nominees.
After board members marked their ballots, Cox and Mary Henley, the superintendent's administrative assistant, counted the votes.
Cox announced that none of three candidates received a five-vote majority, so there was a runoff between Wilson and Hill. After the members wrote their final choices on paper, Cox and Henley counted, and Cox announced that Wilson would be the new chair.
"Let me first say thank you to the board and those who supported me being in this position," Wilson said on taking literally a central seat at the table.
But asked after the meeting about his new role, he noted its limitations.
"It's a little different role but carries no more power than being a regular member, quite frankly," Dr. Wilson said. "I get to vote, one vote only, and look forward to pushing the agenda for the strategic initiatives that we have ongoing."
The member who chairs the Bulloch County Board of Education retains a vote on every motion. So there is no reserved tie-breaker power.
Wilson, who holds doctoral degrees in both education and law, is a professor of legal studies at Georgia Southern University and is licensed as an attorney. He has served two years on the board and represents District 3.
Hill, a 10-year board member from District 8, had served three years as chairman.
By a similar process, the board nominated members Steve Hein, Hill and Sparks for vice chairman. But Hill announced that he was withdrawing his name, and after the ballots were collected and counted, Sparks was announced as the vice chairman.
No exact vote totals were announced. After the meeting, Cox said she had forgotten the totals, and that someone from her law office had left with the ballot forms.
"I don't remember the vote count, but it takes five votes to prevail," Cox said. "It takes five votes, so for both chairman and vice chairman, the winning candidate received five votes."
The evening's first business had been Probate Judge Lee DeLoach's swearing in four board members starting four-year terms. Jimmy "Jay" Cook Jr., representing District 6, and Glennera Martin, from District 5, are new on the board. They outpolled previous members Anshul Jain and Vernon Littles in the May 20 election, and Jain and Littles' terms lasted through December.
Returning board members Sparks, who represents District 2, and Hein, who represents District 4, were sworn in for new terms after running unopposed last year.
By a unanimous vote, the school board formally set its meeting calendar for the year.
The next meeting is Saturday's retreat which, like the regular meetings and work sessions, will be open to the public.
The board will "be going over our strategic plan" and the "all the major initiatives that are underway for each department," said Hayley Greene, the Bulloch County Schools' public relations specialist.
Staff members from departments that handle teaching and learning, finance, facilities and organizational effectiveness will update the board, she said.
The board will continue holding most of its regular meetings at 6:30 p.m. the second and fourth Thursdays of each month. Meetings are scheduled Feb. 12 and 26, for example. The meeting scheduled for Jan. 29, the fifth Thursday, is an exception.
The fourth-Thursday meeting is usually billed as a "work session," but the board does sometimes vote at these.
A new feature of the meeting calendar is that several of the fourth-Thursday meetings, besides the annual "Speak Up for Education" session in February, will be held at schools instead of at the central office.
"Speak Up for Education" will be held 6-8 p.m. Feb. 26 at Julia P. Bryant Elementary School. This year it will serve as the public hearing on the Bulloch County Schools' adoption of the "Investing in Educational Excellence" flexibility option for setting and achieving school goals.
The complete meeting schedule can be found at the school system website, www.bulloch.k12.ga.us.
Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.