School board wrestles with social media, other board policies

Clarke County school board members discussed at a recent meeting possible rules on board members’ use of social media sites such as Facebook.

 

Community members or parents often prod school board members about school district matters in forums such as the “Clarke County School District Town Hall” Facebook site, where people can make comments, post articles they think should be shared, or sometimes just pose questions.

Sometimes school board members with Facebook pages try to get answers to such questions and share them, such as when people posting on the Town Hall page recently wanted to know why some Clarke school rooms didn’t have heat during a recent cold spell.

Clarke County School Superintendent Demond Means suggested that at least sometimes the school district’s email system might be a “healthier” means of communication, which would also leave a paper trail.

Means also reminded board members of their three legal duties — setting school district budgets, setting policy and evaluating the superintendent.

School board members aren’t supposed to interfere in school operations, and board members are not official spokespersons for the school system, though parents and voters often turn to their elected school board members for information.

Some on the board questioned whether adopting social media rules is the best approach.

“What’s the difference between a Facebook page and responding in a public forum?” asked board member Greg Davis.

School board President Jared Bybee noted that board members can be held accountable with or without a social media policy.

The committee reached no decision after its discussion last week.

The question is one more knotty issue the policy committee is considering as it rewrites a whole section of school board policies dealing with the school board itself.

The board and its policy committee have been wrestling with those board policies for months.

Last year, the board approved a partial rewrite of its board-specific rules, including a new policy that would impose term limits on the board’s two top offices, president and vice-president, after being advised by experts in school board operations that sharing leadership roles leads to more effective governance.

The board backed off the term limits policy after some community criticism. Some thought the term limit policy seemed aimed at then-president Charles Worthy, who had been president since 2006.

Earlier this month,the board elected Bybee as its president.

The board’s policy committee is now reviewing all the policies relating to the school board, but is not planning on carrying proposed policies to the full board until they’ve arrived at a complete package.

 

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