Responding to several days of media criticism, the Utah State Board of Education has issued a call for unity among education groups.

In its statement issued at the end of the first day of a two-day board meeting, however, the board did not specifically address concerns voiced regarding the board and Supt. James R. Moss.The withdrawal of the State School Boards Association from the Education Coordinating Council set off a flurry of media analysis that has centered on disagreements between local and state education leaders. The disagreements have focused on perceived poor leadership by the state board and dictatorial personal leadership style of the state superintendent.

"Utah education is broader and of greater import than any one person or group," the board's statement said. "Of more importance are the serious challenges facing public education, which will require the creative talents of all groups involved."

The board cited challenging economic and educational times as reasons for all education groups to cooperate and focus their energies on meeting those challenges.

The board got a vote of support from Sen. Haven Barlow, R-Layton, who appeared at the board's meeting. Barlow said discontent surfaces periodically regarding the governance of education, and he expects the current unrest to resolve itself.

He attributed the unhappiness to a "loud but small minority. As far as I'm concerned, the present governance is working very well."

Barlow said people don't understand the functions of the state board. He attributed some of the unrest to the divisive tax reform initiative movement.

"We can't eliminate the functions of the state board," the senator said. "The board should be free of political pressure."

Barlow said education has been well represented by Moss before the Legislature. The superintendent is dedicated to making good changes in education, and that's "bound to rock boats" among those who want to retain the status quo, the senator said.

Thursday's board meeting began a process for the board to determine how to implement its new strategic plan, The Shift in Focus. The meeting continued Friday.