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School Board members ask for secretarial help

August 09, 1999|By BRUCE HAMILTON

The Washington County Board of Education has a plan to give school board members the secretarial support they say they need.

Unlike directors and other upper-level Central Office staff members, board members do not have a secretary. They asked Schools Superintendent Herman G. Bartlett Jr. to make one available to them.

Bartlett, during a work session last month, offered to share a secretary on a limited basis.

"We need one person," board member B. Marie Byers said. "We need someone who knows policy and has expertise with board issues.

"We're not just another department here. We're the corporate body."

The board depends on Cheryl Steiner, secretary to Executive Director of Support Services William McKinley, and Ruth Grove, the superintendent's secretary. Both take minutes for board meetings.

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Board members said they need someone who reports to them and performs clerical duties. In other jurisdictions such as Frederick County, an executive assistant arranges meetings and trips, handles correspondence and types minutes.

"We don't have direct support," said Paul Bailey, the board's vice president. "There's a reasonable expectation we respond to correspondence and do it in a professional manner. Some (board members) may have the skills but not the time."

The board expanded from five to seven members Dec. 1, 1998, increasing the amount of paperwork generated for board business.

"Once we get into the school year, we encounter a lot more materials," said board member Herbert J. Hardin. "When you need (a secretary), you really have to have them available."

Three of the school board members are retired but several serve on state committees or other voluntary groups. The president makes $4,900 per year; the others make $4,800.

"We do need someone to call to be responsible that we can communicate through," said board member Mary Wilfong. When she receives a letter, Wilfong doesn't know if it also went to her peers, she said.

"For each of us to respond doesn't seem time-worthy," she said. "That kind of thing would be helpful to coordinate."

This year's budget included $188,700 for six secretaries, but they work in other areas, such as serving the newly hired technology director. Bartlett pledged to make one secretary available to the board for seven hours each week.

The secretary will be available for 3 1/2 hours Monday and Wednesday mornings. The board agreed to try the plan.

"We're trying to look at it very conservatively," Bailey said.

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