HUNT COLUMN: Grateful for these great folks

Published 9:30 am Friday, November 25, 2022

By Cathy Hunt
Troup County School Board Chairwoman

I heard it again this past weekend: “Thank you for the work you and the other board members do. The job is quite often a thankless one.” 

In response to this often-stated comment, I’m going to start saying, “I appreciate your support. In thanking me, you’re keeping the thanklessness at bay!” 

This is the week that most of us think a lot about thankfulness. Hopefully, we’ll voice our gratitude in heartfelt Thanksgiving prayers. We’ll remember that, in the great scheme of things, we are pretty darned blessed. 

And this is a good space for me to share one thing that I’m incredibly thankful for: my colleagues in the Troup County School System. Though retired from teaching, I still get to interact with fabulous and dedicated teachers, administrators and staff, including a superintendent who is one of the hardest-working people I’ve ever known. 

I’m exceptionally grateful for my fellow board members, just plain good folks who have no personal agendas except the common desire to help improve our schools and do right by our people, especially our students. Though I didn’t know any of them well six years ago, I’m now proud to count all of them among my dearest friends. I can call on any of them, at any time, about anything. 

We sometimes have philosophical disagreements, and we don’t always vote unanimously, but there’s never any animosity. You can find hundreds of stories online if you Google something like, “School boards behaving badly.” Too many boards are made up of individuals who openly compete with one another for control, lean hard into partisan politics, and separate into factions. Board meetings are constantly contentious because of the people who sit at the front of the room. 

I can’t imagine trying to do the work in a constantly negative and prickly atmosphere like that. We all accept the fact that public comment (or more specifically, certain commenters) can occasionally get adversarial and cause tension in a meeting, but thank goodness there are no adversaries on the team on the dais. 

There have been numerous occasions when visitors or new folks – people like reporters, lawyers, and educators from other districts who aren’t novices in the public school board arena – have commented on how refreshing it is to attend a meeting where the board members actually seem to like each other and are not committed to open confrontation and needling. Everyone involved in that kind of mess must dread the regular meetings, and that is no way to live. 

On our team, we know how to be serious about matters when sober judgment is called for, but we also know how to laugh with one another, both during meetings and when we walk out together afterward. 

At the end of December, two of our group who decided not to run for re-election will be leaving our ranks, and we will miss them. These kinds of transitions can sometimes be a threat to cohesiveness, but knowing the two people who have been elected to step into their shoes brings me a sense of peace as I contemplate the work ahead. I’ll write more about these four members in an upcoming column. 

So, yes, the job can be stressful at times, but (though I will admit to also being thankful for a holiday week with no meetings scheduled!) I can still count my blessings. And I do.