Geist, with support of fellow board member Kim Cochran, defended his actions at Thursday’s school board meeting after saying he has taken some hits for Chapman’s comments.
At the Nov. 1 meeting, Chapman outlined several issues he had with Geist, including his criticism of board decisions, two public appearances in support of Cherokee Charter Academy, self-published newsletters in support of charters and questioning the motives of the superintendent and school board in opposing them, and attending a local organization’s meeting without the consent of the board.
Geist’s central issue with Chapman’s comments was the timing, as the last school board meeting was just five days before the Nov. 6 election.
“If you truly believed that my actions would put our accreditation at risk, why would you, as the chair of this board, wait so long to address this with me?” Geist questioned, adding Chapman’s timing was “just another example of an attempt to mislead the public.”
Geist then addressed the newsletter he created earlier this year, entitled ‘The Charter Debate Part II,” saying the board policy Chapman claimed the document violated pertained to hiring, transferring or dismissing employees, which Geist said clearly referred to operational functions and not a difference in political ideology.
“My document and statements in no way undermine the authority of the superintendent as defined by this policy,” Geist said.
Geist argued that his support for charter schools does not come from a narrow interest, as Chapman previously asserted.
Geist went on to say a majority of voters in the county supported the statewide referendum on Amendment 1, which allowed the state Legislature to create an appointed board to create and fund charter schools that are not approved by their local school boards.
“My position on charter schools has always been rooted in the belief that all students in our county would benefit from increased choice, increased competition, as well as the additional funding and cost savings that accompany a charter school,” Geist said.
Geist said there is now no doubt that he and Cochran, who voted against the anti-amendment resolution passed by the board at its April 19 meeting, sided with a majority of the county.
Many other school boards throughout the state made headlines for passing similar resolutions, but most Republican lawmakers were in support of Amendment 1.
“Every single member, not some, not most, but every member of the Cherokee County delegation are on the record supporting local and state-approved charter schools,” Geist said.
Geist also said the board should take a look in the mirror before it casts the first stone.
“I do not know if accusing me of false policy violations can put our accreditation at risk, but I do know that there are events that have taken place over the past year that are clear policy violations and some that are questionable,” Geist said.
Geist’s list included allowing public comment on a personnel matter, non-emergency correspondence sent by Chapman on school system letterhead without prior approval of the board and Chapman voting on a partnership agreement with G. Cecil Preutt Family Center YMCA (for which he also served as chairman) without filing a conflict of interest form, among several other concerns.
Cochran, who served her last meeting Thursday and will be replaced by the new Post 2 board member Patsy Jordan in January, said she did not agree with Chapman’s statements and the questions he raised.
“I would have voiced those at the time of the incidents,” Cochran said. “I have in fact found Mr. Geist to be conscientious and to not take actions that would hurt the system. He takes great pains to do that.”
Chapman thanked the board members for their comments and did not elaborate further on the concerns.
In other business, the board unanimously voted on the superintendent’s recommendation for the 2013-14 school boundaries.
The finalized grade configurations include the new E.T. Booth Middle School as a sixth through eighth-grade school; Bascomb, Boston and Oak Grove elementaries will be kindergarten through fifth-grade; Clark Creek will remain a kindergarten through fifth-grade school; Chapman Intermediate School will be closed in its current capacity and added to the Etowah High School campus; and Ball Ground will remain a kindergarten through sixth-grade school after no clear community consensus was achieved on a grade configuration change.