County Council Member Shadows School Employees

It's easy to sit back and complain about a problem. But it takes very special people to get out there and try to make a change.

Last month, a Beaufort County school improvement council challenged county council members to spend a few days in their shoes at Bluffton Elementary School.

At first, many of the county council members didn't exactly take the offer like the school improvement council had hoped, but it wasn't a total no-show.

You could say John Pateracki is a jack of all trades at Bluffton Elementary School, although his main job is to help out with technology in the school's media center. But he, like many of the other assistants, find themselves taking on a lot more.

"We're on the go from 7:30 until the children leave at 3:30, so we're on the go all the time," he said. "If we're not making copies, we're working with children in the classroom, making sure the kids get where they need to go."

And that's exactly what the school improvement council wanted county council members to see when they put an advertisement in the local newspaper challenging them to shadow a teacher's assistant for a few days. Today, councilwoman Margaret Griffin took them up their offer.

"All we're hoping for is for her and other council members to get a more intimate understanding of what's going on in the schools," said improvement council member Phil Essman.

Although Griffin raised four children and worked in the school system in another district years ago, she says walking in their shoes for a day has been beneficial."I understand that you can't put 20 children in a space built for 15," she said. "It just doesn't work. I understand the money crunch. I understand all of that, and I'm very sympathetic, but I felt it was important for me to come myself."

And school improvement council members are hoping she won't forget her experience when budget meetings come around.

"If they understand where the money is going and why it's being used and why we're asking for assistance or books or whatever, that can only be a positive thing," said Essman.

The school improvement council says two other county council members, Frank Brafman and Starletta Hairston, have also agreed to take them up on their offer and they're hoping this will prompt others to do the same.

Reported by: Jaime Dailey,