Outgoing Houston BOE members honored by peers, leaders

PERRY -- The main business at hand at Tuesday’s Houston County school board meeting was honoring two outgoing members.

Chairwoman Marianne Melnick and board member Skip Dawkins will each leave the board at the end of July.

In addition to kind words from their fellow board members, the duo was recognized by Houston County Commission Chairman Tommy Stalnaker.

“Don’t expect the individual that’s taking your places to be able to pick the ball up where you left off,” he said.

In his interaction with community leaders elsewhere in the state, Stalnaker said he often hears about “turmoil,” particularly in other school boards. He credited Dawkins, who has been on the board 19 years, and Melnick, a board member for eight years, for their role in a cooperative board setting.

“People come to live here because of the school system,” Stalnaker said. “Y’all attract a lot of people.”

Melnick will stay in the county but is moving out of her district to help with family concerns. That required her to resign her post, and her fellow board members understood the move.

“I think that’s way more important than any position you hold on this board,” Bryan Upshaw said.

An emotional Melnick, who taught and served as an administrator both in the schools and at the central office, spent more than 40 years in the Houston County school system.

“My whole professional career was with Houston County schools, and I don’t regret a day,” she said.

That wealth of experience was an asset to Superintendent Mark Scott, who just completed his first year at the helm in Houston County. He noted that he would continue to turn to Melnick as an adviser.

“I appreciate the support, the leadership, the lessons learned that you provided me over the last year,” he told her.

Dawkins took a different route to school board service. He worked for 40 years in the telecommunications field before joining the board in January 1996. Even though he didn’t have education experience, Scott said Dawkins was a valuable member of the board.

“He brought that sense of business to the board and has been an active player,” Scott said.

Often the board’s representative at state functions, Dawkins would be “sorely missed” not just in Houston County, but across the state, board members said.

Dawkins represents District 3, which covers Perry, but is moving to West Virginia to be closer to family.

“I want to offer up my thanks for the people in the south end of the county,” Dawkins said.

He also offered advice to the remaining board members. Other than Vice Chairman Fred Wilson, who has been on the board since 1995, none of the current members has served as long as Melnick or Dawkins.

“It all comes back to the kids,” he said. “Don’t forget that.”

Tuesday, the board took action on several items.

In addition to passing anticipated policy revisions regarding grades, weapons and bullying, the board also heard from community member Lee Wingate. A parent of a Veterans High School student, Wingate said he’s grown concerned that prayer is not heard before Houston County sporting events and other functions the way he’s heard it in other counties nearby.

“I think we need to start standing up for God,” he said.

To contact writer Jeremy Timmerman, call 744-4331 or follow him on Twitter @MTJTimm.