Editorial: Grand jury's selection this week of next county school board member is crucial to the community

In the world of law, grand juries are critical.

While their duties vary by state, in its simplest terms a grand jury looks into the veracity of charges before a trial.

But here in Whitfield County, that group of citizens has another vital duty. This week, a grand jury is tasked with selecting the District 1 member of the Whitfield County Board of Education.

While selecting the next school board member is immensely important, the circumstances leave us all with much sadness.

Thomas Barton, a school board member who represented District 1 as a respected community leader, passed away unexpectedly on May 17 at the age of 61. He had been on the school board since 2008, representing the south end of the county admirably.

According to state law, a grand jury must appoint the District 1 school board member. The person the grand jury selects will fill Barton's unexpired term, which ends on Dec. 31, 2020.

Residents of District 1 were invited to apply for the position. The application period ended Friday. Four people applied for the open school board seat: Ronald "Ron" Johnson, Michael Kinsey, Charles Oliver and Nicky Starling.

District attorney Bert Poston expects the grand jury to pick the new school board member by the end of the week -- possibly as early as Thursday or as late as Friday -- depending on how quickly the process goes.

You may say "I don't have any children, or my children aren't in school any longer, so this doesn't matter to me." Remember, the Whitfield County school board sets the system's property tax rate. That should matter to you. Also, the quality of education our children receive should matter to you, since education is such a crucial aspect of a thriving community.

The board of education has many responsibilities, with the main being setting policy and managing the school district's budget. The five-member school board oversees the 26th-largest of Georgia's 180 public school districts. That includes more than 13,000 students who attend 24 schools.

We commend the four south end residents who have offered themselves for public service. While this isn't an election, we are pleased to see so many people with an interest in improving the lives of our children.

We also appreciate the grand jury for the time they have set aside away from their work, family and other obligations to select the next county school board member.

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