In the midst of the controversy over election of the Board of Education, many of us may have overlooked that our legislators are also changing how we elect our County Commissioners.
The voters approved how to elect the county commissioners but our legislators are changing that without our consent.
Last week, like many of you, I sent an e-mail to members of our legislative delegation after it was announced they would write a compromise bill to replace their highly controversial one.
I suggested they adopt the proposal presented them by the Board of Education on how BOE members and the chairman are elected. Then our legislative delegation could call for a referendum for the public to vote how we want our school board members and the chairman elected in the future.
Mike Chapman and Janet Read have been ousted by our legislators — not the voters — from their posts on the board of education. Their terms expire this year.
Had our legislators not already decided for us, we could have voted in just a few months on whether Chapman and Read should be re-elected or removed from their seats. But, once again, the public did not get to make that decision. Our legislative delegation made it for us. In case you do not know what the uproar has been about, let me bring you up to speed.
To be in compliance with the latest census, district lines of the Board of Education had to be redrawn. The Board of Education drew a plan that would meet the required criteria. But, our legislative delegation ignored the proposal and drew their own.
You probably heard about the controversy over an application for a charter school here in Cherokee County. Our Board of Education did not approve it. It was supported by our legislators and approved at the state level.
According to some BOE members, they were threatened there would be retaliation if they did not vote for charter schools.
When the plan our legislative delegation drew was made public it included much more than what was required to be in compliance with the census. It changed how the BOE members and the chairman would be elected. The district lines our legislators drew ousted Chapman and Read.
If that was retaliation as supposedly warned, it was against all four of the board members who voted against the charter school application. Both Robert Wofford and Rick Steiner voted against it, too. If Read or Chapman do run in two years, they would be running against Steiner or Wofford.
Those BOE members in favor of the charter school — Rob Usher, Kim Cochran and Michael Geist — were left undisturbed in their districts.
Dr. Mark Elgart of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools warned the changes brought about by our legislative delegation’s actions could jeopardize the school system’s accreditation. That caught our legislative delegation by surprise. They announced they would draw a compromise bill.
As one who has had experience dealing with SACS, I still am not sure our accreditation is safe. SACS will frown on a school board that must vote like our legislators direct or face retribution.
After teachers told of statements of our legislators, more folks were angered. Reportedly, one of our legislators said, “Georgia Schools are abysmal.”
It worsened when other comments, supposedly made by some of our legislators, were made public. One teacher said after she emailed our legislators, the catty response she got back from one essentially said she, the teacher, should be teaching her students instead of writing letters. The e-mail had been sent from the teacher’s home at 10 PM.
When it was revealed the person writing the legislative bills lives in Forsyth County and represented only a few people in Cherokee County, more tempers flared.
A new organization formed — Cherokee Citizens for Kids. It has about 1,000 subscribers who are receiving information from the group which advocates for public education and stresses its successes.
The compromise bill is on the governor’s desk. How the chairman of the BOE is selected is the only significant change.
Many are sending and encouraging others to e-mail or write letters to the governor asking him to veto the bill.
July is a hot month in Georgia. On the local political scene, it will get much hotter before the July primary election.
Marguerite Cline is the former mayor of Waleska.