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Bartow Schools' Gray Files SACS Complaint

Board member Wanda Cagle Gray said she had four concerns that she listed in the complaint against her fellow board members.

A member of the said concerns brought to her by several of her constituents spurred her to file a complaint against her fellow board members with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

Wanda Cagle Gray said her complaint was filed based on the appearance of wrong doing.

“I feel if there’s a presence of wrong doing, and if I don’t do anything about it, I’m just as guilty as whoever is (doing it),” Gray said.

A representative for SACS did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

Two of Gray’s four concerns center around the use of school system facilities. Gray said that uses the baseball field at the old  without a contract and the Rome Volleyball Club uses the gym at the new , without any fee listed. Neither had board approval, Gray said.

“I don’t see any money involved, and there was no board approval,” Gray said. "I just want to know who’s paying the bills on the utilities. My constituents were very concerned with the field usage and the gym usage.”

Board Chairman Davis Nelson said that some organizations pay to rent fields while others don't, such as the Bartow County Recreation Department, which he said provides in-kind services. Nelson said his school followed the same process that other organizations do when they rent school system facilities. Although Excel doesn't pay a fee to use the ballfields, Nelson said the school spent $20,000 on repair work.

"That was probably 10 to 15 times what they would have had to pay to use the field," Nelson said.

The chairman said he did not have first-hand knowledge regarding the use of fields by the Rome Volleyball Club.

"My understanding is that they followed the exact process they were supposed to follow, and she knew that before she filed that complaint," Nelson said.

Gray’s third complaint is that Board Chairman Davis Nelson and Adairsville Middle Schools on behalf of the Coosa River Soil and Water Conservation District, of which he is a field supervisor.

“I told him not to do it anymore, and he turned right around and did it again,” Gray said.

However, Nelson said he holds a volunteer position with the CRS&WCD as a way to give back to Bartow County.

"There are paid employees who do all the checking of the requirements," he said. "Once they’ve done that and marked it, I sign off on it. Ms. Gray knew that. She knew the process and what that was all about before she filed that complaint. She even asked the board attorney during an open meeting if it was illegal what I was doing, and she was told it was not illegal. She has the facts but she’s chosen to file this complaint now."

But, it was the fourth concern that pushed Gray over the edge and convinced her to file her complaint. During a board retreat in February at Berry College in Rome, Gray said she left when the meeting was adjourned and the other board members reconvened and continued without her.

“I asked them to amend the minutes, and they refused to do that,” Gray said. “They discussed the budget without my district being represented or the press or the public. It’s an appearance of wrong doing.”

Nelson said Gray was aware that the meeting would last for three hours and that she chose to leave before it adjourned, as he said she has done at numerous other meetings.

"If you check records, you’ll see that she leaves school board meetings multiple times early," he said. "I don’t know why she chooses to do that. She knew the hours of the meeting, and she chose to leave. It was not adjourned until it was finished. She chose to get up and leave. That’s not mine nor the other board’s responsibility to get her to stay."

Superintendent John Harper said today he had received a letter from SACS late Monday afternoon regarding concerns from the community about policy being violated, but that he hadn’t had a chance to read it.

Nelson and Vice Chair Angie Cornett both said they were aware that Harper received a letter from SACS but were not aware of what it addressed.

“Dr. Harper said last night he had received a letter from SACS,” Nelson said. “I haven’t seen the letter, and he had not read it. I hadn’t talked with him to see what the content of the letter was. He and I have not talked today.”

Nelson said he anticipates the content of the letter will be discussed at a future board meeting.

“Not knowing what the content is, it’s kind of hard to say definitely yes,” he said. “But, if there’s any kind of issue of value, I think it would be discussed at a board meeting.”

Board member John Howard said Tuesday he knew there would be a letter but didn't know Harper had received it. Fellow board member did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment.

Gray said several other residents sent letters to SACS regarding actions by the board, including former board member Matt Shultz. He said that, while he doesn’t know many specifics, he did feel that some of Gray’s concerns were legitimate.

“What she put in the letter I thought was valid,” Shultz said. “Some of the things I was aware of, and some things I wasn’t. I felt like there were some things there that warranted an investigation, and I didn’t think she was getting very far with the board itself.”

Shultz said his concerns revolve around the overall management of the system, the tone of how things have been conducted and the to .

“I had some issues as to how that was all handled,” Shultz said. “There were a number of things, but just the overall direction of the system. If board won’t take issues seriously, that’s when SACS needs to step in.”

Nelson said that anyone can make an accusation.

"The question is, can you prove that?" he said. "And she hasn’t proven it. It doesn’t hurt me, it hurts the school system. What she’s chosen to do this time is tragic. She’s put the students and staff in this school system at risk for what she’s doing for personal gain. She’s up for re-election, and that’s the only reason I can think she would dare to do this. If you follow this with other school districts, you can see what kind of turmoil this creates."

Matt Shultz June 12, 2012 at 10:37 PM
FOLLOW UP: Recently there are some actions that seem to be outside of what would be considered normal operating practices. I am not part of the decision making process anymore but there are some appearances of inappropriate behavior. I believe it may be beneficial to review the conduct of this board to ensure that our citizens are getting the school governance that they deserve.
Katherine M June 13, 2012 at 12:20 AM
If ANY of this stuff is true, then Davis Nelson needs to be removed from this board. However, he also works with SACS and has for many years. I doubt SACS will take action because of this relationship. Someone needs to contact Governor Deal. State law gives him authority to remove board members.
BP News June 13, 2012 at 01:19 AM
Katherine, I think the Governor only has that authority if the system is in danger of losing its accreditation, which makes this somewhat of a circular problem.
Howard Johnson June 13, 2012 at 12:45 PM
I would really hate to see cronyism creeping into the system. That's what you risk by looking. It's downright dangerous!
Larry June 13, 2012 at 06:45 PM
Apologies to Matt Shultz, but when you were on the school board I thought you were going "overboard". However, I am paying more attention now (especially since I am no longer employed by the school system) and we need you and more like you back on the board.
Kimberly June 13, 2012 at 08:30 PM
Wanda is only out there to run HER agenda, at whatever cost it may be to others, including the students she claims to want to serve. If she can't even stay for announced meetings, she doesn't get to complain that they continue without her. Her time is up on the board.
Katherine M June 13, 2012 at 08:47 PM
Kimberly, yes Wanda needs to go. She is too emotional - but I'm glad she has shown the courage to confront Nelson. The entire board needs to go. Larry you're right we need Matt back on the board. Fred Kittle will be a good board member. And things ran great when Greg Bowen was board chairman. He's decided to give the voters a choice and we need to support him.
Matt Shultz June 14, 2012 at 02:43 AM
Larry & Katherine M...Thanks for the kind words! I enjoyed my time on the board and learned a lot in process.
Santa's Helper June 14, 2012 at 03:00 AM
I'd like to know how much of this finger-pointing, "calling out," and lawsuit against Sullivan has to do with the principal at Kingston being demoted. Seems to some people that this is an attempt to make the board members "pay" for that vote of demotion on May 14. I mention this because it appears on www.topix.com that the close friends of the principal are slandering specific board members. How convenient for the principal if this issue with Sullivan causes the vote to be void?? It's sad to me that EDUCATORS are this scheming and conniving.....
String Bean June 14, 2012 at 03:21 AM
Liz, people starting complining to the board about Anna Sullivan's illegal appointment about 3 months before the Kingston sitution came up. These are two totally different issues.
BP News June 14, 2012 at 10:28 AM
String Bean is right, this has been going on since mid-March and none of the people who have asked the board to do the right thing since then have had anything to do with the Kingston situation. Citizens spoke out about it at the March, April and May board meetings. In fact, when my husband spoke about it at the May meeting, we were surprised to see so many people there, because we knew nothing at all about the Kingston issue until that meeting. You can see a timeline and read the two laws in question here: http://www.bartowpolitics.com/school_board_information.html As far as the votes being void, because they only need 3 members to make a quorum and 3 votes to pass any issue, and most votes are unanimous, I suspect almost nothing will be overturned by voiding Ms. Sullivan's votes. Only those items she made a motion or second on will be in question. They haven't approved the minutes from May 14 yet, and I can't get the whole video to load, so I have no idea whether the vote was unanimous or who made the motion/second, so the Kingston thing may not even be relevant in that case either.
Coby Ruskin June 27, 2012 at 09:06 PM
Wanda needs to resign the school board and run for Kingston City Council, since their usual dramas have dried up as of late.

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