Like many newly elected officials in Limestone County this month, Dr. Belinda Maples was glad to finally be seated in the Clinton Street Courthouse Annex for her first meeting, even if it was a short agenda.
Maples said she's previously served on a hospital board, but serving on a school board was a bit different. For example, during Monday's meeting, it was the board members who left the room to go into executive session instead of the audience leaving so the board could discuss something privately.
Still, it was great to be there, she said.
"I'll have to learn the new protocols and policies they have, but I'm excited to get started," Maples told The News Courier on Wednesday. "It seems like a really good group of guys."
Maples was sworn in at the start of the meeting as the Limestone County Board of Education's District 4 representative. She said she's currently in "the assessment stage," learning where the system is and where it can improve.
She praised her fellow board members for welcoming her into the group, noting they were helpful but unafraid of poking fun when needed.
"You like to have a place to work where they can work hard but also not take themselves so seriously," Maples said. "Being able to say, 'I made a mistake. Let's do this again."
She also appreciated the varied backgrounds among board members. In addition to her own background as a physician, there's educators, business owners and more currently serving — and all are parents of county-school students or graduates of a county school, if not both.
Maples said it was her own experience as a parent that led her to run for a seat on the board in the first place.
"As a parent, I found that the communication between the board and even the school administrators, the teachers and the parents themselves needs improvement," Maples said. "It wasn't working like they intended it to."
She hopes getting a more up-to-date, interactive website for the school system will help. The board recently approved a new information technology specialist for Limestone County Schools, and Maples is excited about the prospect of helping craft a user-friendly site with updated information.
She said in her own searches, most of what she found was years old or hard to find. She believes if parents and the community have better access, it would not only aid transparency but help the board be more accountable.
A better website isn't the only way she hopes to improve sharing information among Limestone County Schools stakeholders. Maples said she's also interested in organizing a countywide expo of sorts to highlight local resources that support healthy children on more than just a physical or mental level.
"The health of the children in the county is about their mental health, their physical well-being, but also their sense of community, their spirit," she said.
On top of that, she wants to work on making sure an already great school system is made that much better during her six-year term.
"I think the best resource we have in the county is the people," Maples said. "I think we have the best teachers; I really think we have the best students. I think we're just as good as anyone else in the country, and I just think we're restricted by policies and procedures or something that says we have to 'A, B and C' when really, we can do the whole alphabet."
The school board is next scheduled to meet 6 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 8. The meeting agenda will be made available at https://bit.ly/LCBOEagenda no later than Dec. 7.