Crucial work ahead for school board

The Fayette County school board has a lot of work to do: redistricting; deciding whether to renew Superintendent Tom Shelton's contract; addressing the findings in a critical report from the state auditor.

All loom large, in addition to the constant work of serving as the citizen voice in setting public school policy.

Because Amanda Ferguson and Doug Barnett successfully defended their seats Tuesday, the board that will undertake all this work will have the same five members who have aligned into camps, bickering with each other, sniping about whether they do or don't have faith in Shelton's team.

This must change.

To start, the board might consider the first words of its own mission statement: "Our mission is to create a collaborative community that ensures all students achieve at high levels..."

Simple enough, but there is no way to achieve that mission unless board members themselves operate collaboratively and at a high level.

That can, and should, include disagreeing, asking difficult, even embarrassing questions.

And it must include doing that professionally, attacking problems not individuals.

This matters for a lot of reasons. First, of course, when the board functions well the district works better and kids benefit.

But there other reasons.

For example, public schools depend upon public support and a fractious board can undercut that support.

It also makes it difficult to recruit educators to the district. If, for example, Shelton's contract isn't extended, the board will have to recruit and hire a new superintendent. A talented administrator would be reluctant to join a district marked by internal board squabbles.

Congratulations to Ferguson and Barnett on their re-elections.

And thanks to all board members for taking on this difficult job.

But take it on they did, and now they must all work hard together to do it well.