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Bartow BOE: We Deserve Better

Just a few thoughts on the current situation with the Bartow County Board of Education...

I have been getting asked a lot over the past few days and weeks about my thoughts on the current state of the school board.  I have tried to stay out of this mess but think it is time to go on the record with my disappointment on how things are going.  Public education is at a crossroads right now, and there are lofty debates happening as we speak on what the future of public education will look like (charter schools, vouchers, etc.).  As our economy turns around (we all need to vote for Romney by the way), we must have a school system that instills confidence into prospective employers who want to locate into our community.  The success of our schools and school governance is an economic development issue that we cannot afford to screw up.  Here is where I land on the current state of the BOE: 

Board Member Conduct:

There are very clear standards for board member conduct that are currently in the ethics policy that has been adopted by the Bartow County School Board.  No board member has the authority to ever pressure or reprimand ANY school system employee for any reason.  In practical terms, there are really only two people who work “directly” for the members of the BOE...the superintendent & school board attorney.  Everyone else in the school system reports through a predetermined chain of command that ends with the superintendent.  It is highly inappropriate, unprofessional & a violation to ever mention a personnel matter in an open meeting.  Serving as a school board member is an important public service and you must always put the system & children before your own desire for power & privilege.  School board members essentially have no official individual authority and any action to the contrary should be considered self-serving.  The BOE must be willing to censure any board member who fails to take the necessary action to protect the integrity of the school system. 

We are seeing these same kinds of actions in Clayton County and it puts system accreditation at risk.

Clayton County BOE Article

SACS Investigation: 

This is not as simple as SACS deciding not to investigate.  In my opinion, it is a conflict of interest for the current Bartow BOE chairman to also serve in any capacity with SACS.  The perception will continue to be that calls for investigation are being ignored or manipulated in some inappropriate way.  At the very least, it looks bad and the Bartow BOE chairman needs to choose which organization he wants to serve on.

SACS Georgia State Council

Board Retreat:

In my almost 7 years on the board I cannot remember having a “retreat” outside of Bartow County. The truth is that this meeting was held in Rome to limit public participation.  If you remember, this meeting happened when staff reductions, elimination of middle school sports & tax increases were being proposed.  There are conflicting statements from the Superintendent & BOE Chairman on what happened.  One board member & a member of the media left the meeting when it was adjourned. Does anyone really believe that they both misunderstood?  After these two people left, the meeting continued for as much as 2 hours in violation of the law.  Someone is lying to us and to date they have not corrected the record on this issue. 

What should have happened?

The meeting should have been held in Bartow County. There is no excuse for purposely trying to exclude the citizens of Bartow County. Once the meeting was reconvened the Superintendent or Board Chairman should have called the board member in question and media representative to return.  Now that the error has been made public, someone should officially take responsibility and make sure that this does not happen again.  Repeating a lie does not make it any more truthful.

Rome Volleyball/Excel Baseball Issue:

Excel is not the issue here, but the school board is supposed to have a written agreement with non-profits, private entities & governments for facility use.  This did not happen and as a result, the impression is that something inappropriate happened. 

What should have happened?

Any organization should have to fill out the appropriate paperwork to use school facilities even if the charges are going to be waived.  ALL organizations must provide proof of liability insurance PRIOR to using BOE facilities. Excel & the BOE should have put on paper in advance what each party was doing.  The value of the facility being used and the value of the services and materials provided.  Liability insurance should have been given in advance of anyone using the property.  When board members are involved with an organization using BOE facilities the standard should be even higher to avoid the appearance of impropriety. 

 

Finally, the school board does not have to function in inappropriate ways.  We must hold our elected representatives to a higher standard.  The events that have unfolded over the past few months are unfortunate but self-inflicted because the board failed to operate consistent with policies and historical precedent.  This pattern of behavior is suggestive of an organization that is operating from a lack of leadership. No single board member should have the power to manipulate the direction of the school system or intimidate system employees. We have great teachers and students and we must demand better if we want this community to reach its full potential.  Bartow County deserves better and it is time to end this nonsense and become a system that everyone can respect once again.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Katherine M September 30, 2012 at 04:44 PM
Excellent post Mr. Shultz! Ms. Cornett clearly crossed the line at the board meeting the other night when she brought up school employees in public comment despite being warned by the board attorney to not do it. Coupled with her foul mouthed diatribe on the recorded cell phone conversation, it is obvious she has no business being on the board and should resign immediately. As to the other issues I can't add anything as you nailed it.
Lisa C. October 01, 2012 at 11:06 PM
I couldn't agree more, both with this article and with the previous comment by Katherine M. This should be a hot topic on in the minds and on the lips of everyone in the county...parents of Bartow, we need to wake up...the people responsible for our children's education have totally dropped the ball !
Tim A October 07, 2012 at 02:11 AM
A thoughtful act of the Bartow BOE would be for them all, Harper included to resign. Gray has done her best to bring forth there many unethical ways. However, she can no longer be effective but may be the only one that can leave knowing she did her best. It's time for a change so vote for Kibble and anyone else who is not on the school board. Of course they won't resign because that takes courage to do the right thing. Except for Gray they all lack courage. There is no reason to show anger in this situation but we (non-BOE members) need to continue a courteous but passionate asking for them all to step down. Show up Monday if you can to support them leaving the BOE.
Kimberly October 07, 2012 at 03:59 PM
Scratch the entire board and superintendent!! Since Harper came, how many employees have been made to leave, "RIFed", brought up on false charges of unprofessional conduct, -i.e. especially from SCMS under Rucker who was placed there by Harper to eliminate the older/established staff that turned the school around so that AYP is now the norm. If there is an employee with any tenure, medical condition or Rucker doesn't like, he will cause them to be fired or removed from the school system as an employee even to the extent of taking their teaching certificates based on false observations without even following correct procedures that he had never bothered to read. He ignores or blames victims of racism or bullying. Let's take a look at that too. "open records/meetings" . Rucker is nothing but a bully who intimidates, berates, openly disparages staff members, disrespects older teachers-even 30 is too old. Remove him then Harper and the BOE. Lets go back to the nice, friendly work environment that used to exist when I started working for BCSS in 1998 not the tyrants that forced me out of my profession and made it impossible to get another teaching job by RIF in 2010. And I was never given a reason for being dismissed from my other 50% position. I've never been so in disbelief and shock at the words that my contract would not be renewed.
Paul Nally October 07, 2012 at 06:03 PM
Personally, I believe that all of you have missed the crux of the problem with this BOE. You understand the majority is morally and ethically corrupt, of that there is no doubt. But why should this be since you have another employee in possession of the authority of law to protect you taxpayers from such abuse? Boyd Pettit is not, nor has he ever been, the “Board Attorney” … he is the “System Attorney”. His allegiance is supposed to be to the citizens of the county, not 3 or 4 of the board members or the Superintendent … unless, that is, he has an ulterior motive in assisting such malfeasance. I only mention this because it seems the majority of folks don’t understand either his duties and obligations, or his prior misdeeds, at least two of which I have independent proof, including his written admission that he instructed a principal to violate state law. Unfortunately, his cronies in crime, C. Millsap, S. Howell, D. Smith, T. Moseley, T. Campbell, H. Murphy, C. Coomer and not too few of some prior grand juries, like L. Holt and J. Jarrett seem not bothered one bit in keeping the evidence from seeing the light of a jury. Of course, they end up with nice appointments. Oh, well, this whole County is your cesspool, enjoy the swim. I’ll just stand on the bank and stir.
James Johnson October 10, 2012 at 12:00 PM
Mr. Nalley, I don't dispute your claims, but providing and publicizing the problem through open records would give you more credibility. The taxpayers do deserve better, but who is stepping up to demand change or run for office to make the change. We would rather sit behind our IPad and post on a blog than actually do something for our future. Is it more lack of courage or laziness?
Paul Nally October 10, 2012 at 05:20 PM
"Nalley" is the car dealer in Atlanta. The "e" makds them the money side of the family, but we don't get any up here in Pine Log. :>) "Who is standing up to demand change or run for office?" ME!! I'm offering myself as a public servant (something I once said I'd not do again) for Chief Magistrate. It is the one office that can't be kept from the Grand Jury and the one office with just enough power, vested by the people, that can clean up the entire County, assuming I'm elected AND live long enough to be sworn in! I have physical evidence accumulated over the past 15 years and most of the witnesses are still alive. The Big Question is ... do all of the people in this County want it cleand up bad enough to go aginst Cartersville and the Chamber? I have my doubts, but we'll see. I just wish I had enough resources and volunteers to get the word out.

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