Beth Helmly sat quietly as the Effingham County Board of Education adopted its budget for the 2015 fiscal year, but she assures she will have plenty to say during her tenure on the board.
The school board began Thursday night’s meeting with Helmly being sworn in as its District 4 representative, giving the board five members for the first time since Mose Mock announced in late January he was stepping down to focus on his son Caleb’s battle with cancer.
“Welcome to the political world,” board member Troy Alford said good-naturedly after Helmly received the oath of office from Probate Judge Beth Mosley.
The school board waited for the May 20 primary results before appointing someone to complete Mock’s term, which ends Dec. 31. After Helmly won the race against three other candidates, the board voted unanimously for her to fill the vacancy prior to the start of her four-year term.
“I’m sure I’ll make some people unhappy, but I’ll try to make more happy,” said Helmly, a retired educator. “You can’t please everybody, so I’ll at least try to do what’s right. That’s the main thing.”
Helmly jumped right into her first meeting, speaking up on the second item on the agenda. Superintendent Randy Shearouse recommended accepting the lowest of three bids to provide dumpster services to the school district for the next three years.
Helmly voiced some concern that Waste Management Services’ bid of $75,709 per year was considerably lower than Atlantic Waste Services’ bid of $89,900 and Republic Services’ of $92,000.
“I just want to make sure we don’t get the short end of something,” she said.
Shearouse stated that a committee of administrative services staff met to discuss the bids and the school district’s needs, and they “feel confident” accepting Waste Management’s bid. He added that the Effingham County School District has previously contracted with Waste Management, and the agreement also includes a six-month probationary period.
Helmly said she was satisfied, and the board voted 5-0 to approve Shearouse’s recommendation.
However, Helmly abstained from the school board’s vote on its fiscal year 2015 budget. She thought that, as a new board member, she should not cast a vote on a budget the rest of the board had discussed for weeks.
“I felt that in good faith I could not agree with it, nor could I disagree with it,” Helmly said. “We need to get that done by the end of this month, so I’ll trust my cohorts in this respect.”
She added, “Next year I won’t be in this position, so you’ll probably hear my voice a little bit more then.”
Helmly received 50.12 percent of the vote in the primary, avoiding a runoff by one vote. Her four-year term on the board of education will begin Jan. 1, 2015.
A former teacher, assistant principal and principal with more than 30 years’ experience in education, Helmly said she is “delighted” to be on the school board. However, she said it’s far too early to get a feel for her new role.
“Like doing anything, you have to get accustomed to it. So, ask me next month or so,” Helmly said with a laugh.