The sometimes-fiery disagreement pitted Marlow against Superintendent Dr. Frank Petruzielo and Chair Janet Read, and focused on whether proposed agenda items should be required to list the financial impact of the proposed action or policy.
Marlow proposed changing School Board Policy BCBD to require a specified dollar amount in the financial impact portion of the agenda request form. In cases where there is no cost to the district, the dollar amount should be listed as 0, her proposed change states. It also states the project or action “shall not exceed (the stated) amount without prior approval of the board.”
Petruzielo’s alternate proposal, which he said provided the district with more flexibility, was approved 4-3 with Marlow, Rob Usher and Michael Geist in opposition.
The superintendent’s policy states that only when board funds are expended that a cost be noted. Otherwise, the financial impact will be noted as “not applicable.” Petruzielo said the subject has never been a problem in his 15 years as superintendent. “The issue here is how we are spending the taxpayer’s dollars and the budgeted amount that the board approved for each year and operating within those parameters,” Petruzielo said. “I just don’t see the point of having whatever research time would be necessary to figure out if something has fiscal impact, when in fact it’s not going to impact the budget.”
Marlow said the intent behind her agenda item specifically related to the approval of the Georgia School Board Association membership resolution, which was approved 6-1 at the Feb. 7 meeting with Marlow opposed.
She questioned whether it would be appropriate to notify the public of the expended funds — which in fact were approved under last year’s budget — since Cherokee residents “do not get a line-item budget.”
District spokeswoman Barbara Jacoby clarified that last month’s GSBA resolution is required by a school board policy to continue membership and the funding is included in the previous year’s budget.
“When you vote on a budget this July, you’ll have the opportunity to include those funds for the coming year or not,” Jacoby said.
Board Chair Janet Read said another notification of the expenditure would be unnecessary.
“To me, it’s redundant and we’re asking people to do extra work,” Read said.
The district’s executive summary of the budget is available online, but Jacoby said anyone looking to view the full budget can make an appointment with the central office staff.
Petruzielo also noted the district has required budget hearings each year and Marlow might be “overestimating how much zeal” the public has for knowing budget specifics.
“For the last 15 years, we have never had more than one person come to one budget hearing, so the assumption that there’s people out there that just can’t wait to consume this information and figure out what we pay for dues to GSBA is a bad assumption,” Petruzielo said.
Marlow disagreed, saying she believed every dollar counts and took issue with taxpayers not having “easy online access” to the line item budget.
“If it’s such a simple request and such an easy piece of information to find, I’m sure Mr. (Assistant Superintendent of Financial Management Candler) Howell and the staff would be more than happy to include it on an agenda item,” she said.
She added that all state legislators are required to submit a financial impact with every bill they present in the Georgia General Assembly.
“I would just say to that, the budget is already approved,” Read said, noting when the budget is approved, those numbers are presented to the public.
Though Geist said he didn’t believe listing every expenditure on the agenda would be practical, he agreed with Marlow’s request.
“I don’t know that what Mrs. Marlow is asking is terribly unreasonable,” Geist said. “If there is a dollar amount … on a decision that we make then just write the dollar amount down.”
While Petruzielo said that it might be helpful to include the information going forward, he stuck by his recommendation.
“In my view, this is not broken and we are trying to fix it,” Petruzielo said.
Changing routes, Marlow then took issue with Petruzielo failing to submit his policy in advance of the meeting and suggested his recommendation be tabled until the next board meeting, but it was met with no second from board members.
Both Read and Attorney Tom Roach confirmed the superintendent is allowed to make his own recommendations regarding policy and is not required to do so in advance.
While Petruzielo attempted to explain his procedure, Marlow told him he was “out of order” for not making a motion to approve his own policy.
“I don’t make motions and I don’t vote,” Petruzielo said.
Roach then told Marlow, who often cites Robert’s Rules of Order, that she was out of order for making an ancillary motion to the previous motion.
Visibly irritated, Marlow asked who was responsible for compiling the agenda. Read said that per school board policy, the board each month considers the superintendent’s agenda.
“I’m not even sure what my role is anymore,” Marlow said.
Near the end of the squabble, Petruzielo reflected on the importance of the matter.
“I can’t imagine that we are spending really this much time on something so inconsequential, particularly with the kinds of issues that we just talked about in the work session that are so consequential to the future of this system,” Petruzielo said, which was followed with a round of applause from the audience.
Also at the meeting, the board approved a re-shuffling of principals and other personnel this coming year. Marsha Iler is resigning as administrator from the L. R. Tippens Educational Center. In July, her role will be taken over by Freedom Middle School Assistant Principal Sheryl Gould. Freedom Middle School Principal Karen Hawley, who has led the school since 2007, is retiring at the end of the school year with Shelia Grimes, assistant principal at Cherokee High School, taking over for Hawley for the 2013-14 school year.
Kelly Jo Page, who helped open Knox Elementary School in 2008, also is resigning this year. The new principal at Knox will be Mountain Road Elementary Principal Tammy Sandell.
Replacing Sandell at Mountain Road is Jennifer Landry, assistant principal at Johnston Elementary.
With the new E. T. Booth Middle School opening in the next year, Chapman Intermediate School will be incorporated into Etowah High School’s campus and no longer serve fifth- and sixth-grade students. Chapman Principal Susan McCarthy will move to the central office to become the director of school improvements