The Marietta school board is making its annual escape to Stone Mountain this weekend to mull over changes in the school system and the year ahead as this newspaper has duly reported. The retreat will cost about the same as last year’s, which was $5,600. That covers hotel rooms, conference space and meals for the seven board members, Superintendent Emily Lembeck and members of the central staff for the two-day getaway Friday and Saturday.
District spokesman Thomas Algarin says two new members who came on the board in January, namely Jeriene Bonner-Grimes and Jason Waters, need to be brought up to date on legalities and general information about the school system.
According to the agenda posted on the district’s website, the first thing scheduled is “Whole Board Training,” including: “Code of Ethics Policy, Teamwork Best Practices, Boards Role in Personnel, What Are You Basing Your Vote On, DeKalb Supreme Court Case: What Does It Mean, and 2014 Legislative Session.” Board members told the MDJ’s Hannah Morgan that getting away from town gives them a chance to bond and make progress for the coming year. Chairman Randy Weiner explained: “It’s good for the board to get out of town, to work together as a group for two solid days and interact with one another and discuss.” The board has done so for the eight years he has been on the board. No doubt, those discussions will be interesting and useful for the board, super and staff. No doubt, there will be interacting and even bonding taking place during the two days at the Evergreen Marriott Conference Center at Stone Mountain.
No doubt, some would suggest that spending about $6,000 to get away from town, interact and bond might not be the best use of the money. But if anyone deserves a getaway, it would be Superintendent Lembeck, who stayed on the job all night in her office during the January ice storm gridlock. She was on the telephone talking with bus drivers, parents, teachers and staff, making decisions for the best interests of the students. She earned kudos for her dedication and responsibility, accepting that the buck stopped at her desk.
Lembeck also asked the school board to reward more than 400 bus drivers, teachers and principals who gave their best throughout the night of Jan. 28. The board agreed to spend nearly $33,500 for gift cards for those employees who went beyond the usual call of duty. It was the right call.
That being the case, let’s give the board a pass on the retreat, although, as a rule, this sort of expenditure is hard to justify, in my view.
Let’s see what happens with new board member Bonner-Grimes who abstained from the vote to reward employees for staying on the job during the icy gridlock. Instead of looking at all the good, she complained that her ninth-grade daughter was stranded at Marietta High overnight. A little bonding would be a good thing.