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Tension between supervisors, school board in the past

There was a time when the King George Board of Supervisors and King George School Board didn’t get along – at all.

That adversarial relationship between the boards was pretty traditional across the state due to laws providing autonomy for school board officials, while at the same time leaving them with a built-in reliance on local governing bodies for a huge chunk of their annual budget money.
The two boards in King George have made big strides the last three years to get away from sniping and to form a bond, with that desire fueled by numerous members of the public asking why they couldn’t just get along.

The pivotal year for change between the two boards was 2012. The county got three fresh school board members that January, and new superintendent Rob Benson started in July.

School board chairman Mike Rose has seen the relationship improve first hand.

“Before I came on the school board I do not believe each board trusted each other,” Rose said. “And the board of supervisors felt the school board was hiding something.”

Four of the current board members participated in hiring Benson.

“We talked a lot about the relationship when Mr. Benson was first hired,” Rose said. “He knew there was a perception of a bad relationship between both boards and he has worked hard to address that.”

Yet, a difference regarding money and raises for school employees threatened in the last several weeks to undo that progress.
But, come to find out, everybody can agree as long as they talk directly to each other.

Rose cited a recent difference about budgeting and pay raises for school employees, threatening to undo progress.

“A good example is what happened at the last joint meeting,” he said. “We showed the supervisors what our concern was with respect to teacher pay and they could see why we need to address that. We can’t have an ‘us against them’ mentality. That only hinders progress and in the end impacts our children’s education.”

Prior to that open dialogue, the communication gap tended to get filled by others who it seemed wanted to foment suspicion and distrust between the groups. There are some in the community who apparently didn’t want to give the benefit of the doubt to either side and made accusations on websites or during the public comment sessions of the boards’ meetings.

There are at least two Facebook websites with anonymous authors expressing concerns about King George whose postings are in large part devoted to tearing down supervisors, plus a handful of residents criticizing them during public comments at meetings.
Despite those efforts, the boards seem to have reached a détente. That was evident at an Aug. 21 joint meeting where supervisors’ chairman Joe Grzeika praised school board chairman Mike Rose for his leadership.

“I personally want to tell you that working with your school board is the best experience I have had in my 19 years,” Grzeika said.

“I personally want to tell you that working with your school board is the best experience I have had in my 19 years.”
Joe Grzeika, King George board of supervisors’ chairman
“The openness and the ability to talk and discuss, without getting personal, without getting emotional, is important so we can all plan for where we need to go. That’s the biggest thing. If we can plan for it, we can make it happen. If it comes in like a grenade, it blows things up and makes a mess.”

Supervisor Dale Sisson said both boards have worked at it and also praised Travis Quesenberry, county administrator, and Benson, calling them “true professionals.”

“This strong relationship has allowed us to tackle the financial challenges associated with building and executing budgets with a great deal of professionalism and objectivity,” Sisson said. “While disagreements will certainly occur, we all understand that we are a group of colleagues focused on doing the best job we can for the citizens of King George County. I consider each member of the school board to be a friend and I’m happy to work with them.”

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