The Manhattan-Ogden Board of Education chose well in naming Beth Tatarko to fill the unexpired term of Doug Messer, who stepped down and now is the district’s transportation director.
Mrs. Tatarko was the obvious choice, but not because she is smarter or more capable than the other citizens who applied for the position. There is no reason to doubt either the commitment or abilities of those citizens; nor is there any reason to think they wouldn’t serve this community distinction.
Mrs. Tatarko, however, offered the board and the district something the others couldn’t: experience on this school board and familiarity with this district’s issues. She not only served on the school board from 2005 to 2009, but she was president when the board planned the $97.5 million bond issue that is improving some of the district’s schools and transforming others.
She doesn’t know everything she’ll need to know to again participate fully in board discussions and decisions. But like those members who chose her, Mrs. Tatarko knows from experience how long and how much work it takes new board members to get up to speed. Every new board member faces a steep learning curve, but the many months that most board members acknowledge it takes to understand the budget, funding sources, enrollment trends, personalities and a host of other matters could consume most of the time left in the unexpired term. Mrs. Tatarko has had a clear head start on those issues. What’s more, she also has developed working relationships with most board members, having served with a majority of them. It was apparent from their comments as well as their choice that she also has earned their respect.
Importantly, Mrs. Tatarko has said she wouldn’t use this appointment as an opportunity to resume a career as a school board member. Indeed, had that been her intent, the board would have been wiser to select another candidate. In her letter to the board and elsewhere she said she would step down in the summer of 2013. That’s when the individual chosen by voters in the spring 2013 election will take her place.
Fortunately, district patrons can count on Mrs. Tatarko to be much more than a placeholder.