Then, if the kids ask their teacher, “What did you do?” the teacher may say, “I had a lemonade stand, too.”
Their’s was not the ordinary lemonade stand in the neighbor’s front yard. Those stands were placed at the entrances to large communities to make those who passed by aware of the plight of Cherokee’s public schools.
Some children and adults had signs with clever messages like, “Don’t Squeeze Our Schools.”
Then teachers and parents walked through those communities talking with parents about what they see as the failure of Cherokee legislators, especially Sen. Chip Rogers and Reps. Calvin Hill and Charlice Byrd, to support public education. They were mainly asking support for ousting Rogers by electing Brandon Beach.
Without a doubt, public education is being squeezed. State funding has been drastically cut. Massive employee layoffs have been avoided by not filling positions vacated by retirements, etc.
All employees of the Cherokee Board of Education have had their wages cut through furlough days. Of special concern is increased class sizes.
Additionally, many feel current representatives are working to dismantle public education by taking money from public schools and giving it to private schools for students of elite families. The response of our legislative delegation is they are enabling parents to have a choice about where their children go to school.
Now for a history lesson: It has been no secret that our BOE and our Legislative Delegation have been at odds. You might say the friction skyrocketed after the board did not approve a plan for a charter school in Cherokee County.
Supposedly there was a meeting between some legislators and some board members where school board members were threatened. The board members were told something like this — do it our way or suffer the consequences.
The board still did not approve a charter school and bad things started happening to those who voted against it.
Our legislators have the authority to redraw district lines for BOE members as related to the Census. They did just that. With the redistricting, board Chair Mike Chapman and former chair Janet Read were ousted. Other board members who voted against the charter school were placed in districts where they would have to run against one another.
The board members who had voted for the charter school districts were essentially unchanged. Kim Cochran is the only one up for re-election this year. She is opposed by Patsy Jordan, who is strongly supported by many public school teachers and parents.
How the chairman of the board is elected was changed, too. Previously elected by BOE members, now the chair runs countywide. There was an uproar because legislators did that without any public input. Citizens thought that decision should have been made by Cherokee voters. They saw it as another loss of local control.
Then a decision was made in Atlanta that went around the control of the local BOE. The charter school was approved at the state level with state funds going directly to it.
While millions of dollars the school system is believed to be entitled to had been cut, suddenly there was money available for the charter school.
So Janet Read is now running for BOE Chairman. She is strongly supported by public school educators and PTA members who feel public schools are under attack. They stress they are not against charter schools. What they are against is taking money away from public schools to give it to charters.
Danny Dukes, a charter proponent, is running to be chair of the BOE, too. He is strongly supported by the charter school community.
In the fray, derogatory and infuriating statements were made by legislators about public schools, teachers and parents. They felt personally insulted, ignored, belittled and deserted by our legislators. Three well organized groups were formed to support our schools.
We have heard, “If life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” In this case that is what many voters are attempting to do.
They feel the incumbents have given Cherokee Public School children lemons. Their new recipe for lemonade is to oust Byrd, Rogers and Cochran.
There are about 4,500 employees of our BOE. If they turn out to vote against the incumbents, they may well be the largest voting bloc Cherokee has ever seen. Add to that parents and other voters who feel Cherokee schools are endangered and they can make a huge pitcher of lemonade.
Their success is dependent upon their going to the polls.
Marguerite Cline is the former mayor of Waleska.