Fayette School Board appointee Presberg to focus ‘on issues and kids’

Leonard Presberg, appointed in November to fill out the remaining three years of an unexpired term.

Look beyond the test scores to measure how good our school system is, says newly appointed Fayette County Board of Education member Leonard Presberg.

The newest board member also said he has no affiliation with the current board members, will not serve as the third vote on any voting bloc and intends to focus “on the issues and the kids.”

Presberg emphasized that test scores are important but they are not the only measure.

“Being the best doesn’t mean our test scores are the best. Test scores have become the measure of an excellent education, but in reality test scores only measure some things,” Presberg said. “Parents always say they want their kids to be happy and successful. But test scores don’t measure things like the ability to communicate effectively or getting along productively with others or being happy in life. I’m not saying that tests aren’t valid or important, I’m saying that they are not the only important thing.”

Presberg was appointed by unanimous vote of the school board on Nov. 14 to fill the unexpired Post 5 term of the late Sam Tolbert that will run through 2014. Presberg’s first meeting as a board member will come in December.

Interviewed Monday morning, Presberg emphasized that he is currently in a learning and fact-finding mode. That said, Presberg was asked to share some of his preliminary thoughts on education to help residents become more familiar with him. One of the things Presberg noted was the school system’s impact on the Fayette County community.

The scope of impact on the community is substantial because the school system is a big player in the local economy, he said.

“It’s what primarily attracts people and businesses to come here,” Presberg said.

As he indicated in November when he and the other candidates for the Post 5 seat made their presentations before the school board, Presberg described his work methodology as one of collaboration and compromise and that his goal would be to educate every stakeholder on the importance of the school system in their lives.

At that time, Presberg said, “My goal is to be an independent voice for the students and the school system.”

Presberg’s stated intention is to focus on current and future issues facing the school system. When asked about any affiliations he might have with any on the school board prior to his selection, Presberg said he had not been contacted by anyone on the school board about adding his name to the list of candidates, adding that he had not met or spoken with any of the board members prior to the November meeting where all the candidates made their presentations.

As for the past divisions and split votes that have sometimes occurred on the board, Presberg said he is “not here to take sides or revisit anything. I’m here to be focused on the issues and the kids.”

A primary focus of the school system today is financial, with Superintendent Jeff Bearden having stated recently that a significant percentage of the approximately $10 million expected to be cut from the 2012-2013 budget could well come in the form of adjustments to personnel, hopefully through attrition.

Presberg on being asked about next year’s budget noted that, as a new board member who has yet to be seated, he has not had the opportunity to delve into school system finances. That said, Presberg noted that his primary concern is to spend money on the education of students.

Presberg currently serves as chief financial officer at Women’s Medical Center, was the former headmaster and teacher at Hill Country Montessori, and an attorney with Fayetteville-based George N. Sparrow, Jr.Presberg has two children in the Fayette school system and has served as a youth coach on the school council and the PTO. He said previously that, as a teacher, he has taught all ages of students. Presberg said he is aware of the theoretical and practical aspects of teaching, noting that he is especially interested in the impact of technology on education, both now and in the future. He also referenced the similarities in education and medicine, both of which are currently dealing with decreasing revenues.