Madelyn Murray O'Hare would turn over in her grave if she knew about the McDuffie County Board of Education December regular meeting. Personally, I applaud the board, along with the administrators of the central office.
Over the years, I sat with them through hours and hours of budget work sessions, deliberations, presentations, conferences, monthly planning sessions and retreats.
I know that they have the best for McDuffie County's children at heart. I also know they have overwhelming obstacles in their way -- mostly in the form of humongous budget cuts. And they have to consider the effects of their decisions on the faculty and staff.
So, I wouldn't trade places with any of them no matter what. I can't imagine being in their shoes, having to sit in public and talk through my decision-making process, knowing that anything I say could suddenly be printed in black and white across a front page.
I have to stay on my toes as I try to be sympathetic to them, yet not forget my duty to keep accountable to the public those in control of public funds and responsibilities.
So, the last board meeting was like a breath of fresh air. Maybe it was the burden of more upcoming budget cuts they'd just heard. Maybe it was the approaching holidays. It could have been the seemingly long list of bad personal news, or maybe it was just the sudden cold weather.
But discussion ensued about a family member of an administrator suddenly becoming seriously sick. This led to more discussion of others in the school system who had family members going through bad health, some who had lost family members and would be mourning through the holidays, and some about to go through surgery.
I believe it was Assistant Superintendent Jim Franklin who suggested that the group have prayer before the meeting adjourned. He suggested comptroller Tom Smalley lead the prayer (Mr. Smalley also is pastor of a church.)
Everyone in the room -- board members, administrators, staff, media -- voluntarily formed a circle and joined hands, lifting up praise and petitions to God in unity with Mr. Smalley.
It was a heart-felt prayer, interceding on behalf of those in need. Expressions of praise and thanksgiving escaped the lips of others in the circle. The intercession extended beyond those who are sick and went on to seek guidance for upcoming decisions, for mercy and strength to face obstacles and for a bond of love for each other and all in the school system, both staff and students.
As for me, I was in awe -- finally, a board that knew Who to turn to when they are overwhelmed.
I can't wait to see results.