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It's time to support our school system

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By Geoff Hamill

A big step was taken last Thursday night by the Washington County school board members, and I feel it was a step in the right direction.

Robin Cochran was hired as the new superintendent of schools, filling a position that was vacated when Rob Stafford resigned earlier this year. Stafford was hired at the start of last school year, and his tenure here was quite short, but understandably so. With some family concerns on his mind, Stafford left Washington County to be closer to home, his wife and two young children, and I don’t see how anyone can blame him for that.

While here, Stafford was a good leader, and was an excellent resource for the school system in his brief time at the helm. He represented the school system in a very professional manner, and one of which we could be proud. Still, his exit was hard for the system, which was still recovering from the loss of former superintendent Larry Graves, who passed away. Filling your top position twice in just over a year is not easy to do, and it’s hard on the employees, as well as the community, which looks to the superintendent for leadership of the educational system.

With the work ahead of the school system, as well as the work that needs to be done, this latest hire is a positive step because it brings Cochran, a Washington County native, into a key position with opportunities  to lead the school system in a positive direction, whether it be in upgrading current facilities or building new ones.

I’ve been in Washington County for four years now, and I’ve seen some things I didn’t agree with, while I’ve seen other things I liked. A tax increase approved by the school board to help provide better facilities for local students is one of the things I did agree with, and I’m glad that tax was passed. Our students need better facilities, and although some will argue that sports facilities are not what we need, they are a part of the educational process. There are several students in our school system right now who would drop out and go home today if they weren’t offered sports programs. These sports programs build character and social skills to be used throughout their lives.  I’m not sure where Cochran will stand on every issue when it comes to facilities, but I’m sure she will be looking out for the good of the students.

Numerous other issues will find their way to Cochran’s plate, and while I don’t know her as well as many of you might, I feel very confident from the time I’ve spent around her in a professional capacity, as well as a personal friend, those issues will be handled with integrity, as well as a level-headed approach to progress. I know it was not a factor considered by the board, but I can assure you that the fact Cochran is a God-fearing woman will never in any way be a negative thing, either.

Like her or not, and like the school board or not, things should be about to get better in Washington County’s school system. Cochran has already shown the ability to approach conflicts in the proper manner by sitting down with a board member with whom she hasn’t always seen eye to eye, but still, the issue was approached maturely, and it’s now where it belongs, in the past.

I’ve heard rumors and gossip, and I’ve been told of things posted on Web sites about Cochran, as well as our school board members. Sometimes the things you hear aren’t good, and often, they aren’t  even true. Take for example all of the money the board members supposedly make in office. Thousands of dollars, right? Nope, just $75 per meeting, once per month.  That’s $900 per year, and most board members spend that much in campaign expenses just seeking the office, all for the chance to serve the public.

Now, you may not like the way they serve, and if so, you have that right. You also have the right to run for office and defeat them if you choose. But I would encourage you to become involved. Attend meetings and hear the discussions behind the policies the board makes, and don’t complain blindly without knowing the details. I often hear people tell me about things the board is doing and why they are wrong. What strikes me about these comments are that they are being made by someone who was not at the meeting when the decision was made, and I know this, because I was there.

Change has been made, Cochran is our superintendent, and it’s time to move forward. Let’s work together and support her, as well as the board in their decisions, or at least be adults in our disagreement with them. Change is coming, and as often is the case, change can be good, if we only let it.