The Auburn City Schools Board of Education is made up of a diverse group that does far more than just show up for monthly meetings.
The five people who make up the board also attend work sessions, public forums, conferences and extracurricular events; network with other public representatives, do regular training; and attend to the concerns of school parents and school district staffers.
The following is a more in-depth look at those who serve on the board:
Smith serves as the president of the board with eight years of service under his belt. He also works with the Lee County Youth Development Center and volunteers with Auburn Parks and Recreation, Juvenile Court and as an education department leader in his church.
Working with children and bettering their lives has been a major part of Smith’s life and career.
“My entire adult involvements have centered on working with children and parents in some capacity,” he said. “As the husband of an educator, a father, and uncle to several nieces and nephews, I appreciate the value of quality public education to any community. As a citizen in this community, I have witnessed first hand the positive relationship between Auburn City Schools and the city of Auburn.
“I am proud to be able to have a seat at the table that plans and supports education and the development of our children and their families.”
Smith said his main role as president is to support the staff, teachers and professionals in the schools, which means handling everything from overseeing personnel turnover to approving budget adjustments for school construction.
Smith said that one of the more difficult challenges he’s faced has been dealing with the growth of the community and how this affects the school system. For instance, a second high school is in the system’s plans, as well as the schools already under construction, such as J.F. Drake Middle School and Cary Woods.
“As a board, we collaborate and plan in order to ensure that exceptional educational opportunities are available and equally accessible to every registered student,” he said. “Also, the growth of our school community has invited some unique challenges as we wrestle to address them in meeting the need of our students and the community.”
Hutto wanted to find a way to serve his community when he joined the school board seven years ago.
“Being able to provide a high-quality education for our city’s children is critically important,” said the board’s vice president. “First and foremost, it gives them an opportunity to be successful in life, whether that is going on to continue their education after high school, entering the workforce, entering into military service or whatever their next endeavor may be.
“Educating our children is important since many of them will continue to live in our community after they graduate; they can become productive members of the workforce and start their businesses. Finally, having a highly ranked education system is important for economic development as businesses seeking to locate to a community will have the school system as an important part of their decision making process.”
Hutto, who works as the local airport director, said that he wanted the community of Auburn to know that the work he and the other school board members do is focused on the children and on policy.
“The members of the school board are solely focused on what is best for the children; there are no personal agendas,” he said. “The cooperation and the respect among them are inspiring. It is a pleasure to serve.”
Just like Smith, Hutto said one of the most difficult challenges has been dealing with the growth of the school system.
“As with any position of responsibility, there are some difficult decisions that need to be made,” he said. “Because of the success of our community, having to find ways to deal with the growth of the school system without compromising quality has probably been, and will be, a challenging issue.”
While there are challenges, Hutto said there are also rewarding aspects to the job.
“The most rewarding part of being on the school board is seeing our children learn and grow,” he said. “We generally tour the schools once a year. Watching our teachers in action is very rewarding as well since the classroom is where the rubber meets the road.”
Chambless joined the school board in 2013 when she took over an unexpired term. She began her first official term in 2015.
Chambless has children in Auburn schools. She was also a student in the system herself as a child.
“I honestly hadn’t even thought about being a school board member until someone close to me encouraged me to apply,” she said. “As always, I did my research as to what being a board member would entail and found it to be quite challenging, but rewarding at the same time … I felt it only appropriate to try to assist in making sure the outstanding legacy of ACS continued to mature.”
Since Chambless’ years as a student in Auburn City Schools, the system has grown tremendously and filled many of the buildings to capacity.
“I honestly didn’t anticipate the level of need and urgency to which the ACS facilities plan would need to be updated and executed,” she said. “While this wasn’t something I expected, it has been an eye-opening experience into how much is required to make sure all ACS facilities are used properly to their fullest capability.”
Chambless said that board members undergo extensive training for the role.
“Board members have certain course requirements, annual mandatory individual training hours, as well as yearly collaborative board training that must be completed,” she said.
One of the hardest parts of the job, however, is making decisions that might place stress on other people, she said. For instance, decisions that have to do with technology will often place more responsibilities on teachers.
“One of the main difficulties is making decisions that are in the best interest of all parties involved,” she said. “Ultimately, all decisions that we make as a board are for the best interest of the children within the system, and sometimes that may require more efforts on other stakeholders. I find it most difficult especially when some of the decisions we make place extra requirements on our teachers and parents.”
Powell has been a member of the board for a little over a year, but she served for years in the Parent Teacher Organization before that.
“As a mother and a volunteer, I have been so impressed with the caliber of teachers and resources that have been made available to our students,” she said. “As a small-business owner, I recognize what a positive influence our successful school system has in recruiting industry and individuals to our area.
“The mother and business owner in me have a stake in our school system remaining first class. Being a member of the school board allows me a front-row seat to the dynamic and impressive workings of ACS while allowing me a small amount of influence as we continue to strive to be the pinnacle of excellence.”
Powell looks at the community from the point of view of a business owner and employee and knows that by investing in students, the board is investing in the city’s future, she said.
Powell finds the board work to be rewarding.
“I loved participating in the graduation festivities last year when we were able to celebrate as our students take their next steps in life,” she said. “I have also enjoyed the opportunities I have had to be in each of the schools. Our school leadership teams are amazing, and I loved seeing how each school has its own personality while student safety, growth and success at the heart of all of them.”
Jenkins has served four years on the school board, but his experience in education goes way back. Jenkins served in education for 43 years and as a superintendent for 33.
“Our children deserve leadership that focuses on their successes, and provides quality teachers as well as programming to assist them in pursuing their goals,” he said.
Jenkins echoed what each of the other board members said, which was that all members work well with one another despite different backgrounds and experience.
“We work as a unite and strive to stay in the background as much as possible,” Jenkins said. “It is not our goal to receive accolades because we want our focus to be on the students and staff.”
Jenkins said he has found that watching students grow and succeed is one of the most rewarding aspects of the job.
“Watching students mature, graduate and pursue a future of their choosing,” he said.
“Seeing our teachers, administrators and staff be recognized for their hard work and success.”
Each one of the board members recommended the role to others in the community. Powell invited anyone to attend the monthly meetings, which are open to the public, to get a feel for how the board works.
“Serving on the school board is a wonderful way to give back to your community as long as one is willing to not be driven by any agendas other than what is best for the children,” Hutto said. “That is why we serve.”