These days, when the Guilford County Board of Commissioners gets together with the Guilford County Board of Education, the result always feels a little strange.
For the better part of the century, the two boards have essentially been at odds with each other – with the Board of Commissioners, which sets tax rates, trying to pinch every penny it can, and the Board of Education trying to get all the funding wants to build repair and run the schools.
Now, the two boards are much more like two peas in a pod than ever before – and there were some fascinating cross currents evident when the Board of Commissioners met with school board members in a Thursday, January 5 work session.
One very humorous moment occurred just as the discussion began to take place. Guilford County Commissioner Pat Tillman – who served on the school board until recently being elected to the Guilford County Board of Commissioners – found himself sitting awkwardly near the school officials.
The meeting was taking place in the third-floor conference room of the county-owned Truist Bank building in downtown Greensboro. When the discussion on school funding began, Tillman, who just happened to be sitting next to the school officials, got a concerned look on his face, rose from his seat and walked all the way across the meeting room.
“ I didn’t want you to start asking me questions,” he said to his fellow commissioners, as he walked, getting a laugh.
It was funny but it made a point too: Two months ago, Tillman was sitting on the school board – and now he was a holder of the purse strings that fund the decisions of the school board.
Tillman said after the work session that it’s very interesting having the view from both sides now.
Not only does the Board of Commissioners have two former school board members – Tillman and Commissioner Carlvena Foster – but it also includes a working teacher.
Since Commissioner Mary Beth Murphy works for the school system, she works for Guilford County Schools Superintendent Whitney Oakley – but since Murphy is a commissioner in addition to being a teacher, Oakley must answer to Murphy.
And it is always fun to watch Murphy question her big boss at the work sessions as Murphy did on January 5.
While the new very close relationship between the two boards is highly unusual, it has certainly led to a less combative atmosphere. Basically now, all of the school system’s requests have a much easier road than in the past.