Superintendent pledges to maintain rapport with public

Feb. 05, 2014 @ 05:00 AM

After giving local parents and others 10 chances to offer feedback, Lee County Schools Superintendent Andy Bryan is taking a break from the public meet-and-greet sessions he started shortly after becoming superintendent last year.

But that doesn’t mean he’s done, Bryan said. He might even offer several more before the year is out, but no dates have been set yet.

“It’s really been a good way to let parents, teachers, community leaders, business leaders and others with a stake in our schools tell us what they think the direction of Lee County Schools should be,” Bryan said.

He added that school board members and district-level administrators have also attended each meeting, so he’s confident that decision-makers in multiple areas have been listening. He said many different subjects were broached by the public over the course of 10 meetings from early August to late January

“What people talked about kind of changed as the year moved on,” Bryan said. “Early on, there was a lot about the General Assembly and the budget, and teacher pay. Then later in the year, testing became a bigger topic.”

Lynn Smith, chairman of the Lee County Board of Education, said he attended every meeting and was glad that Bryan took the initiative to start his tenure as superintendent by reaching out to the community.

“I think it’s wonderful to try to involve as many people as possible,” Smith said. “I think Andy has done a fine job, and I am pleased to see that people have been turning out for these events.”

Turnout did decrease some, Smith said, from about 50 people at the first meeting to 10 or 15 at some of the later ones. But even still, both he and Bryan said, the level of conversation between school officials and the general public remained at a high level.

At that first meeting in August, held at Broadway Elementary School, a number of teachers and former teachers came out to ask how the public might help by volunteering; a large contingent of students, and parents as well, joined them at the meeting.

The Herald reported that at the meeting, state budget cuts to teaching assistant positions, as well as classroom supplies, were a matter of concern for many who spoke that night. Bryan said that similar budgetary concerns have continued to be raised at meetings, and that the concerns of those who came to these meetings will be on his mind as the budget process kicks into gear this spring.

“Because of having these meetings, and the same things coming up time and time again, that’s certainly been on the back of my mind and will continue to be something I think about as we work on our budget and our planning for next year,” Bryan said.

Thursday, he and the school board will officially start local budget discussions when they conduct a joint meeting with the Lee County Board of Commissioners, who generally provide 20 to 25 percent of the school district’s budget.

That meeting is open to the public and will begin at 5:30 p.m. at the McSwain Center at 2420 Tramway Road.