Tag Archives: education

Clark Chalks One Up for Peach County Students

For more commentary on Peach County issues, please check out Out of my Mind – Peach County Edition. 

Peach County’s new Superintendent of Schools, Susan Clark, has already earned her $145,000 annual salary with her first big decision, which cleared the way for two new schools that had been delayed for more than a year by unwise Board of Education moves.

As reported by Jake Jacobs in The Macon Telegraph, the BOE voted 4-1 to accept Clark’s recommendation for a new school at the previously approved (then disapproved) site on Kay Road in Byron and a new site on University Boulevard in the Fort Valley neck of the woods.  Chairwoman Norma Givens cast the only dissenting vote.

“Disputes about where to put the schools have gone on long enough,” the Telegraph quoted Clark as saying. “It’s been more than a year, and we’re not serving the children by not building a school. They need one.” 

The cost will be somewhere between $22 million and $24 million, with the state promising to pitch in $5.1 million.  The now rescinded BOE decision to drop the Kay Road site and a 341 site had virtually kissed off about $4.9 million.  Plus, we will now have two schools under construction at the same time, whereas the previous plans begun under Chairman Bill Gresham called for the Byron area school to go up first, then the Fort Valley area school.

Clark also showed resolve, deflecting Givens’ doubts about growth in East Peach and the possibility of students spending too much time on the bus.  Clark expressed a vision of improved schools attracting growth and requiring even more schools.  As for possible trouble with bus routes, she simply said, “We’re too wise to let that happen.”

Indeed, the people who work in the school system every day have showed enough wisdom to get kudos from SACS, which chastised only the BOE.  Is the board seeking Wisdom once again?  Things look promising.

Clark showed she’s in charge; she took the rare but permitted step of calling a meeting herself.  As Jake reported, Givens claimed only the chairperson can call a meeting, but the board’s policy manual (available here) states that any three board members or the superintendent can call a meeting.

Clark can call a meeting a week if she deems it necessary, as long as she keeps winning for the students.

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The Beating Up Goes on at Peach BOE

Never a dull, and rarely a civil moment at the Peach County Board of Education.  As hinted in a previous post, BOE attorney Jerry Lumley has in fact resigned.

My colleague Jake Jacobs reported in the Macon Telegraph Sunday that Lumley ” ‘just got kind of tired of having to deal with (school board member) Jody (Usry),’ ” in addition to having too many other commitments.  Lumley also said Usry “likes controversy and ‘puts a negative spin on anything the board tries to do. I’m just tired of it.’ ” It might be true that Usry likes controversy, but there’s plenty of controversy going around, no matter who’s on the board.

Usry responded ” ‘I hope our next attorney has a better sense of his roles and responsibilities, and works for the school district rather than as a protector of individual persons, as this board looks to the future and strives to let go of the recent ugly past.’ ”

Lumley didn’t have a good word for brand new Superintendent of Schools Susan Clark, either.  ” ‘She has a high opinion of herself,’ ” Lumley told The Telegraph.

Lumley also called Citizens for Better Education ” ‘spoiled kids’ ” who throw temper tantrums if they dont’ get their way.  He lamented ” ‘a continuous lack of civility’ “on the group’s part.

CBE spokesman and County Comissioner Roy Lewis countered: “There’s plenty of frustration to go around, and it’s caused me and others many sleepless nights the past year.”

Lumley was on the ball about one thing: lack of civility, and it continues.  All the sources gave us in the Telegraph article was more tit for tat.  All parties convinced they’re right.  And to top it off, a knock on Dr. Clark just as she begins what any fair observer can see will be a difficult job.

It ain’t over til it’s over, and it ain’t over.

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More Clayton-Peach Comparisons

Today’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution includes an article about a citizen protest against the Clayton County School Board.  Clayton is only two weeks away from a vote that could revoke their accreditation with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

My Feb. 27, 2008 column in The Leader-Tribune noted the similarities and differences betwee the Peach County BOE and their Clayton counterparts.  In short, both boards are in hot water for “infighting among board members, meddling in day-to-day operations of schools and violations of board procedures.” However, there now seems little the Clayton BOE can do to fight off losing their accreditation, while the Peach BOE has about a year to get things right, and who knows how much longer after that year, depending on the outcome.

Some Clayton protesters wanted the whole nine-member board to resign; others focused on four members who’ve caught the most flak.  Likewise, in Peach County, some call for a whole new board, others would settle for the heads of Norma Givens, Kay Whitley and Jamie Johnson.  Board member Jody Usry did offer to resign at one point, which led to an exchange of letters in the The Leader-Tribune, some declaring it’s about time, others saying Usry is the last one who should resign.  Some have called for recalls in both counties. Clayton protesters plan to make their resignation demand in the BOE’s faces Monday, and, failing to get that demand met, plan to present recall petitions to the state board of elections Tuesday.

Peach County has an opportunity, with brand new Superintendent Dr. Susan Clark, to plug the holes and right the listing ship.  Before we ask for heads on a platter, let’s see what Dr. Clark can do.  The last thing she needs to start an already difficult job is even more turmoil.  Let’s give her our enthusiastic support and save the rotten tomatoes long enough to see some results.  What say you all?

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