Posted: 11:28 am Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014
By Todd Holcomb
With the state legislature over its shoulder, the Georgia High School Association’s executive committee will vote this month on constitutional amendments that would impose 10-year term limits on its 58 executive committee members and require that they be employed by a school or school system.
The vote, proposed by the GHSA office, doesn’t mean the GHSA office supports those amendments.
The vote also doesn’t mean the legislature couldn’t force those rules on the GHSA if they don’t pass.
GHSA executive director Ralph Swearngin said the vote is designed to get the opinions of the GHSA’s constituency, the more than 450 member schools.
‘’The legislature expressed concerns that were registered to them from their constituencies, and we felt like it was our responsibility to take care of our own governance issues and put it out there to our member schools to see how they feel about it,’’ Swearngin said Tuesday. “There has never been anyone (in the GHSA membership) bringing this forward. Let’s see if it’s an issue or not.’’
The proposed GHSA constitutional amendments, which would be voted on at the GHSA’s executive committee meeting on April 14 in Macon, are:
1. Members of the executive committee must be employed by a school or school system.
2. There must be four males and four females among the eight at-large members of the executive committee.
3. Executive committee members are limited to 10 years of service.
4. Region secretaries must be employed by a school or school system.
Those ideas were expressed in SB 343, a bill that passed the senate but never got out of committee in the house during the recently concluded legislative session. The legislature did pass a law that established a GHSA oversight committee and required the GHSA to post annual financial reports online.
Swearngin understands the bill may come back to life. The bill’s sponsor, Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, has called the GHSA a ‘’self-perpetuating club’’ and wants rules to ensure more diversity in the member of the 58-member executive committee, which makes GHSA policy.
‘’I think the people who pushed these measures had a definite agenda to see that changes are made,’’ Swearngin said. “It would be surprising when it comes to legislative issues that it’s one and done. That’s one of the things that committee members will have to consider.’’
The GHSA’s executive committee, which sets GHSA policy, is made up of one representative from each of the GHSA’s 48 regions. Those members are elected by the schools in their regions.
There are eight at-large members, selected by the GHSA’s board of trustees, plus the GHSA’s president and vice president. Swearngin and other hired GHSA staff are not committee members and do not vote.
Swearngin said he appreciated the argument for diversity on the executive committee but wasn’t sure of practical ways to ensure it. Among the 58 executive committee members, seven are African-American, and four are female.
“What I tried to communicate was that we have 48 elections going on by the schools in various areas of the state,’’ Swearngin said. ‘’Do you dictate to regions that for this two-year term you have to put forward someone who fits a particular category? Or do you just hope that over time with 48 elections that it’s going to represent the schools in these areas?’’
The GHSA has had a rule since 1992 that requires that at least two of the eight at-large members be female. The proposal calls for a minimum of four.
The proposal on term limits, if set at 10 years, would make at least 16 current members of the executive committee ineligible to return to their positions beginning in 2015-16.
They are Dave Hunter (8-AAAAAA), Donnie Griggers (4-AAAAAA), Tommy Stringer (8-AAAAA), Don Corr (7-AAAAA), Earl Etheridge (3-AAAAA), Jasper Jewell (6-AAAA), Wayne Tootle (1-AAAA), Glenn White (7-AA), Donnie Drew (8-A), Glenn Tidwell (4-A), Brett Ingle (3-A), and Jesse Crews (2-A), Terry Rogers (at-large), Lucia Norwood (at-large), Gary Holmes (president) and Walter Wade (vice president).
About five others could be out because they are retired and are not employees of a school.
‘’In the minds of some people, there is a belief that people who make policy affecting what goes on in schools should be in the school setting on regular basis,’’ Swearngin said. “On the other hand, those who are retired are better able to volunteer their services. That’s both sides of that coin.’’