March 17, 2008 · 4:17 pm
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 The now rescinded BOE decision to drop the Kay Road site and a 341 site had virtually kissed off about $4.9 million.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.
March 2, 2008 · 10:12 am
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?
February 28, 2008 · 1:50 pm
Because of attorney client privilege and executive session, me may never know what drove BOE attorney Jerry Lumley away. At this moment, it’s not clear whether he only left the meeting or quit altogether. More when I know something.
Inquring minds (should at least) want to know:
Why did it take four hours to negotiate new Superintendent Dr. Susan Clark’s contract? The superintendent’s duties and responsibilities are well known. Board policy spells them out. Doesn’t it?
Given the very public disputes among board members, how much of those four hours was taken up with such conflicts?
Why is so much about the doings of this board of an allegedly public school system a mystery?
Advice to Dr. Clark: Carry snake venom antidote and wear a flak jacket on your back.
November 27, 2007 · 3:37 pm
We had two letters in the November 21 Leader-Tribune concerning the on-going dust-up over education matters, and my fellow columnist A.W. Dorsey even heard of this mess while “on the road.” What’s a sports columnist doing writing about the Board of Education? Why not, since it’s turned into tag-team wrestling?In keeping with the tone of Jody Usry’s letter, I’ll have a little fun at his expense. (I make no claim to knowing whether God is using me in this instance.) Usry writes of board member Kay Whitley’s “rein of terror.” I hope that the students of the Peach County schools have been taught well by their dedicated educators, and that they remember the horrors of the “Reign of Terror” following the French Revolution. I’m pretty sure the students wish to rein in the current Reign of Terror, whoever is actually carrying it out. The reins of our school system definitely need a gentler hand, and I pray the next person to reign over the schools as Superintendent will not rain on anybody’s parade (although we might wish the weather gods would loosen the reins on the clouds). My request: It is almost always counterproductive to mock people publically with personal attacks; if unity is truly what you desire, then please bring it about with a more civil tongue, lest that small member further fan the flames.
County Commissioner Martin Moseley Jr. used a more measured tone in his letter, which began by justifiably lamenting the departure of Superintendent Tommy Daniel. Moseley noted it “looks like” the BOE is “bent on the destruction of our school system and county as we know it.” I think “looks like,” is an important qualifier here, because I doubt that Whitley, Givens and Jamie Johnson are actually trying to destroy anything. What they are trying to do is hard to determine, since they have offered little public comment. However, people at each other’s throats seems like Peach County as we know it, at least at its worst moments.
Moseley echoes my own concern about who might replace Daniel. Will we get someone who just needs the job, or someone who can actually run the schools as an independent, competent professional? It is the superintedent’s job, after all, to run the schools; it is the Board’s job to keep an eye on the superintendent and monitor his or her performance, not to run the the show itself.
Moseley calls the reigning majority “indecisive and inactive,” but I think that’s a mistaken evaluation. Whitley, Givens and Johnson have been very decisive and active; it’s just that most observers have trouble comprehending to what end. If people in Fort Valley are indeed ready to get on the CFBE bandwagon, as Moseley suggests, this is a positive sign. It would mean that at least some of the people who voted in Whitley and Johnson (the new members) are dismayed by some of their actions. Since the people voted for the board to do their bidding, as A.W. cogently observed, then they have every right, and indeed the responsibility, to demand a change of course, if that is now their wish. Let the people speak.
It was distressing to read in A.W.’s column on Page B1 of the Nov. 21 edition that people outside the county are hearing about the BOE situation. Let’s hope our new friends from China don’t hear about it.
NEXT POST: Deconstructing “Beowulf”.
November 12, 2007 · 5:54 pm
I haven’t been able to reach School Superintendent Tommy Daniel to find out why he asked the board to buy out his contract. He said nothing newsworthy in The Telegraph, so I assume he is A) A class act who doesn’t like to bad mouth people and B) Keeping things clean for his next job.
So we’re left with the obvious question: Why would a schools superintendent leave in the middle of a school year, when the system had been showing some signs of progress under his direction? It’s hard not to speculate that the current turmoil between BOE factions and the fowl up with the new schools made working conditions unpleasant. It ain’t easy being a superintendent these days, what with No Child Left Behind breathing down your neck and limited resources. Being stuck in the middle of a feud couldn’t have made the situation happier.
What’s next? Who, given a good look at the current Montague-Capulet situation, would take the job as Peach County Superintendent of Schools? Yet someone will come forward. The money’s good and some bold soul will get it into his or her head that the challenges are stimulating, rather than daunting. All I can say to the candidates is: God be with you, and rent, don’t buy a home.