Sumter County Board Members Attend Georgia School Board Association’s Winter Conference

BOE Board Members attend GSBA Winter Conference

Sumter County Board Members Attend Georgia School Board Association’s Winter Conference

Georgia School Board Association (GSBA) has served the state’s public school boards of education since 1951. The organization has served as a leader in Georgia’s public education system by advocating for local control of public education, and by offering programs and assistance to local boards of education and school systems. GSBA’s services have evolved from a professional development program and general “meeting ground” for school board members into a full service association. Today, GSBA offers its members numerous programs including legislative representation, year-round training opportunities, risk management, finance services, legal and policy services, a superintendent search service, public engagement services and vehicles such as this web site and its many publications to keep school leaders informed and on track.

Five members of the Sumter County School’s Board attended the winter conference held in Atlanta. Sylvia Roland, Carolyn Hamilton, Vincent Kearse, Abbis Bivins and Patricia Harris along with Superintendent Walter Knighton and Administrative Assistant Andrea Wright. The attendees participated in various workshops and general meetings. 
Board members Harris, Bivins and Roland attended the Legal Issues training workshop. For over sixty years, GSBA has been the leader in helping local school boards interpret the complexities of Georgia’s laws, rules and regulations regarding public education. The E. Freeman Leverett Legal Issues Workshop is the most important and prestigious workshop offered annually by GSBA. Board member, Patricia Harris said, “I liked how Phil Hartley and his team talked about the importance of listening to the voice of the community. They talked a lot about social media and transgender legal issues.”

Vincent Kearse, Carolyn Hamilton and Superintendent Knighton attended School Finance workshop. The workshop was led by superintendents from around the state of Georgia and former board members. Those in attendance gained a better understanding of the budgeting process and the entire financial planning process for school systems.

Andrea Wright attended the Support Staff workshop. Wright was able to collaborate with fellow administrative assistances and other central office support staff personnel. Experts presented topics on best practices, parliamentary procedure, meeting processes and board management.

During the conference attendees were addressed by Richard Woods, Georgia State School Superintendent, who motivated the audience on the importance of doing what is best, what is right for the students, who are our top priority. Governor Brian Kemp also spoke and thanked those in attendance for their service on local school boards. Roland stated, “both Woods and Kemp said that teachers are doing great after enduring the pandemic and they are continuing to keep students’ needs on the front burner.”
The keynote speaker for Thursday afternoon’s sessions was Malcolm Mitchell. Roland, “Malcolm inspired me.” Harris, “Malcolm Mitchell was awesome!” Mitchell is an author, poet, and a former American football wide receiver. He played college football at the University of Georgia. Mitchell played for the New England Patriots and was part of the Patriots team that won Super Bowl LI. He is founder of Share the Magic Foundation. Harris stated, “His story touched me. He talked about his childhood days and how determined he was to make it out. I encourage everyone to look him up online, read his biography, and purchase his books.”

Friday’s Keynote speaker was Dr. Mary Ehrenworth. The title of her session was, “Literacy is at the Heart of Academic Success for Georgia’s Children: 5 Steps to Fulfilling that promise for all Children. Harris stated, “She focused solely on the education of the student. Reading is so important and starting children out at a young age is the key. She encouraged us to invest in plenty of books.”

Members attended the breakout session lead by Henry County’s Superintendent and board members entitled: Henry County Schools’ Approach to Address Literacy Learning Loss. Harris stated, “That board worked together like they have been at it for years! They gave some great advice and programs to use to help with learning loss. I especially like their Quarantine Bridge Teaching (using retired teachers to work online with the students who are being quarantined). This program is funded with the CARES Act funds.”
Patricia Harris concluded with, “But the highlight of the entire conference for me was the student panel. I love how they put together a Youth Advisory Council of students from different schools and allowed them to speak their thoughts on how school should be. They were amazing!”

Superintendent Walter Knighton was inspired by the GSBA Youth Advisory County Panel Discussion, which was facilitated by Dr. Steve Barker and Lynita Jackson. The students talked about their experience during the pandemic. One stated, “There was a lot of stuff they went through they wish their teachers had told them. The basic things. Teachers never got to the basics, which caused the students to be confused about what to do.”

Board members Hamilton, Bivins and Kearse said they were inspired by the sessions they attended and learned a lot of valuable information. They are ready to attend the next conference and gain more knowledge so that they may better serve the students, teachers and community of Sumter County. 

GSBA believes in Public Education. Their mission is to ensure excellence in the governance of local school systems by providing leadership, advocacy and services, and by representing the collective resolve of Georgia's elected boards of education.

Board members are looking forward to the next conference and continuing their leadership in Sumter County and working together to improve education for the students in our community. 

Pictured left to right: Patricia Harris, Abbis Bivins, Carolyn Hamilton, Vincent Kearse, Sylvia Roland, Walter Knighton, and Andrea Wright