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Does study team have enough time?

March 15, 2002

Next week a team of local businesspeople will begin studying the Washington County school system to find ways to increase efficiency and save money. That's a good thing. The only question we have is whether the group's members are giving themselves enough time to do the job.

Headed by Spence Perry, an attorney who worked with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Federal Insurance Agency, the 40-member agency includes Mike Callas of Callas Contractors, Jim Pierne of F&M Bank and County Commissioner Bill Wivell.

On March 8, The Herald-Mail quoted Perry as saying that the group would spend the week of May 18 studying school board operations, then prepare a preliminary report by week's end. A draft of the final report will then go to the steering committee which will issue a final document in May.

We don't doubt the ability of those in the group or their knowledge of business. They're good people. But those who served on the Blue Ribbon Redistricting Committee were also good people who were given a great deal to do in a short amount of time.

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Some of their members claimed that information and basic items like maps were not made available to them in a timely fashion and the group never did get to make a face-to-face presentation the School Board.

We have two hopes in regard to this committee's mission. The first is that if they see that the short time that's been allotted for their mission isn't enough, they'll say so, and either continue to serve or recommend a study of longer direction.

We also hope that the group is wary of the idea of contracting out too many services. Maintenance, for example, might be handled more cheaply by an outside contractor. But would that outside contractor be as scrupulous as the school system about making sure what sort of people will work in close proximity to children?

On the plus side, the group's report will be made public. So if they do conclude there's a need for major changes, the School Board will be under pressure to make them.

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