Read airs concerns over Marlow email to school’s auditor
June 14, 2013 11:10 PM | 4992 views | 11 11 comments | 61 61 recommendations | email to a friend | print
By Michelle Babcock

mbabcock@cherokeetribune.com

CANTON — Almost as soon as the school board began discussion Thursday night, School Board Chair Janet Read brought up concerns about recent actions of School Board Member Kelly Marlow, including an email she sent to the school system’s auditor.

The email was about the 2010-11 fiscal year and was written to give the auditors authorization to speak to a private citizen, Robert Trim, Read said.

Marlow did not address the allegations during the meeting, which was mostly conducted with only emergency lighting after power was lost because of storms. On Friday, she issued a statement denying any wrongdoing and saying she solicited the help of a group of community members to assist her in looking into the school system’s finances.

At the school board meeting, Read said that earlier Thursday she was present during a conversation between the auditor Adam Fraley from Maulden and Jenkins, Assistant Superintendent for Financial Management Candler Howell and the Supervisor of Strategic Planning Mike McGowan.

“(Fraley) had received an email from a Robert Trim asking questions about the above-mentioned audit. He said no phone number was given and he didn’t know who this Robert Trim was, so he sent an email asking for a phone number,” Read said. “When he received (the phone number) he called Mr. Trim, when Mr. Trim started asking questions he realized that he was not a representative or an employee of the school district.”

Read said Fraley told Trim he was not authorized to speak on behalf of the client, which is the school board.

“The auditor then received an email from school board member Kelly Marlow, giving him the authorization to speak with Mr. Trim on behalf of the school district,” Read said.

In response to questions Friday, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Frank Petruzielo said “the majority of the board did not authorize the action and such action intrudes into day-to-day operations.”

“Board policy makes clear that school board members are to conduct business by the will of the majority of the board, not by the will of individual board members,” Petruzielo said. “The authority rests with the board as a whole, not with individual board members. Board members are not to take any private action that would compromise the board or the school district. According to board policy, the board is to honor the chain of command, delegate executive powers to the superintendent and not undermine the superintendent’s authority or intrude into day-to-day operations.”

Marlow sent out a press release Friday that claims Read’s accusations were false. Marlow said in her press release that she formed “a small working group of local citizens and business leaders to supplement her research and assist her in understanding the financial state of the school system.”

“Mr. Trim was invited to become a member of the working group because of his 15 years of policy experience at the state and local levels,” the press release read. “Ms. Marlow had asked Mr. Trim, on behalf of the working group, to help facilitate a conversation with the independent audit company, Mauldin and Jenkins.”

Marlow wrote that at Fraley’s request, she “generated an email asking him to converse with Mr. Trim on her behalf.”

The email obtained by the Cherokee Tribune from the Cherokee County School District read, “For the purposes of posing these questions in the proper terms, I have authorized Robert Trim to speak with you.”

Petruzielo said that to the district’s knowledge, Fraley did not ask Marlow to send an email giving Trim authorization. Petruzielo said even if the auditor had asked Marlow to send an email authorization, the action is still against school board policy.

“During a meeting with school district staff and the board chair on Thursday, the auditor said when contacted by Mr. Trim, he informed Mr. Trim he would not speak with him about the audit as he was not the firm’s client. Ms. Marlow then sent her email to the auditor stating she authorized the auditor to speak with Mr. Trim, which prompted the auditor to notify CCSD’s assistant superintendent for financial management,” Petruzielo said.

Petruzielo said that accreditation risk is ultimately for the accreditation agency to determine, “but school systems, including the Cherokee County School District 15 years ago, have been placed on accreditation probation due to board members intruding into day-to-day operations.”

Marlow has been asked multiple times by Petruzielo and by his staff on his behalf to follow the chain of command. Emails obtained from the CCSD showed three instances where the superintendent asked spokesperson Barbara Jacoby to advise Marlow to follow the chain of command.

“Ms. Marlow has been advised by myself and by my staff on my behalf repeatedly since taking office about intruding into day-to-day operations,” Petruzielo said.

In April, Marlow sent an email to Jacoby stating that she would follow up with Kennesaw State University colleagues to develop a partnership opportunity.

In an email sent April 3 from Jacoby to Marlow, Jacoby wrote, “I ask again that you please respect the partnership development process is part of day-to-day operations that are the responsibilities of the superintendent and his staff (Policies BBD, BH).”

Also in April, Marlow was sent a second email from Jacoby.

“The superintendent asks you, again, to please respect the chain of command and allow him to direct his staff so they can follow procedures regarding day-to-day operations, such as requests for public information.”

The email asked that if Marlow was asked questions to which she did not know the answer, to send those questions to the superintendent or director of public information, communications and partnerships, Jacoby said.

“Policy (ABB) makes clear that the board is to support the superintendent in his duties, and that it’s the majority vote of the board, not the will of individual school board members, that determines how business is conducted.”

The CCSD received a complaint regarding Marlow, claiming that she had questioned a district employee June 4 about Cherokee County Special Olympics. On June 5, Jacoby sent an email to Marlow about the event.

“Allegations of this type of action by school board members are very concerning. Such behavior creates an atmosphere of intimidation for employees, violates board policy and jeopardizes accreditation,” the email read. “On behalf of the superintendent, you are again requested to refrain from questioning CCSD employees directly; please direct your questions to the superintendent or to me.”

In Marlow’s press release, she also stated that her questions have gone unanswered.

“This group is necessary due to the fact that the professional staff has been unresponsive, insubordinate and obstructive in answering Ms. Marlow’s repeated inquiries regarding system finances, specifically the timing of the board’s receipt of the final audit and the millions of dollars in adjustments that were requires to correct bookkeeping errors,” Marlow’s press release read.

Multiple emails obtained from the CCSD were sent back and forth between Marlow and Jacoby regarding Marlow’s questions about the audit. For each question posed, Jacoby or the superintendent responded.

Petruzielo said in an email, “The Superintendent and staff have answered every question that Ms. Marlow has submitted regarding the 2010-11 audit. The Cherokee Tribune has been provided with copies of all of these emails and attachments.”

Read said the auditor was unable to attend the Thursday night meeting, but was willing to come to a future meeting to answer questions Marlow or other board members may have about the audit.
Comments
(11)
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Bill Oxley
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June 30, 2013
I believe that the CCSD budget is a public document that is available to the board. A board member, indeed any of us that understands how to read the budget, should be able to read it then question the superintendent at a regularly scheduled board meeting, or in writing. Calling individuals and bypassing the superintendent is intimidation indeed. If you don't understand that, Ms Marlowe please resign your seat.
Shannon Freunscht
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June 18, 2013
My son graduated from SHS in 2012. I say with pride he is a product of the Cherokee County School system. I don't know who Ms. Marlowe is for but I do know who Dr. P is for. I can say with personal experience, Dr. P is for the kids. In 2008, when my son was an eighth grader he failed to meet the score on the math portion of the CRCT. Even though he had a B in math, he was required to retest and do summer school. Devastated, he felt like a failure. As any parent would, I felt a need to do something. What could I do? I knew this was a state law but I wanted someone, anyone, to know that individuals were being affected. That good kids, who felt rejected and lost, were being affected. So, I wrote an email to his teacher, his principle and Dr. P. I knew I would get a response from his teacher. What I did not expect was a personal phone call from Dr. P. He called my home, to assure me not only was he proud of the work my son had done in his math class, but to assure me and my son that one day, one test, did not define my son. It was such a wonderful and thoughtful gesture. He didn't know me, or my son, yet he took the time out of his day to call us and reassure us. Whenever anyone questions Dr. P's motives, or his actions in regards to the children I tell my story. I have still never met Dr. P personally but I consider him a wonderful advocate for our children in this county. Not only did SHS and Cherokee prepare my son for college, they did so in such a way that he made the President's List for grades at KSU this last semester. Ms. Marlowe I have to question your motives.
Insecticide
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June 18, 2013
The CCSD roaches sure do scurry when you turn the light on!!

Like all cockroaches, Frankie P and his gang of corrupt misfits need to be squashed!!
Smell a Rat
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June 17, 2013
I'm starting to smell a rat. Every time Marlow does anything that involves digging into the systems finances, Dr. P or Janet Read go on the attack about procedural matters and following policy and ALWAYS bring up accreditation (classic fear tactic). Why are they so scared of someone digging into the finances? Something just doesn't smell right.
Sick of the nonsense
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June 17, 2013
Ms. Marlow seems more concerned with grandstanding and showboating vs. getting issues resolved for the students of Cherokee County. I understand that for some children the Charter school is a better alternative. But many parents

have chosen (yes Chosen) to keep their kids within CCSD and are happy with the choice they made.

I find it interesting that the past few negative articles on Ms. Marlow and Danny Dukes for that matter, do not have any of the Charter Schools's mom bandwagon running to their defense. Maybe otheres are getting tired of nonsense too.
Recall Marlow
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June 17, 2013
Recall Marlow before SACS gets involved.
Sue Ann
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June 16, 2013
There are rumors among parents in the county that Ms. Marlow is trying to ruin the county. I would hope this rumor is untrue. I prefer to believe that Ms. Marlow is just (for want of a better word) ignorant in how to do the job of school board member. Would another school board member or someone on the superintendents staff be willing to mentor Ms. Marlow. I don't want to believe she is making such egregious mistakes out of malice. I prefer to believe she is ignorant. However, can someone help to correct this because if we lose accreditation then my daughter's chance of getting a HOPE scholarship are zero.
Sue Ann
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June 16, 2013
Maybe Ms. Marlow is not familiar with how to do the job of school board member? I would like to think it isn't her desire to harm our county schools but her (for want of a better word) ignorance, in how to perform her duties. Is there a board member who would be willing to mentor Ms. Marlow in how to do her job so that she won't continue to make such serious mistakes? Surely it isn't her desire to make these kind of serious mistakes? Surely she wants to be a member of the board not to cause problems but to better the education our children get. I know if we lose accreditation that my daughter's chance of getting the HOPE are zero, and I would like to think Ms. Marlow isn't going to punish the kids with her ignorance. There are rumbles this is her intent, to ruin our county schools and I would like to believe that isn't her goal at all. I feel better just thinking she is ignorant.
Cherokee Voter
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June 15, 2013
For the good of Cherokee County, Ms.Marlow should resign from the board. She obviously has an agenda that does not include anything good for Cherokee County PUBLIC schools.
A senior voter
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June 15, 2013
It seems to me that Ms. Marlow's main goal from the beginning was to try to make CCSD look bad so her children's charter school would look better. She has zero respect for the accomplishments of CCSD teachers and students. The fact that she partnered up with disgraced Chip Rogers' old campaign manager should show you she has no standards. She has got to go!
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