The state Board of Education notified the Cherokee School Board Monday that it upheld the local board’s decision to sanction and fine Marlow for independently sending a letter to AdvancEd, the agency in charge of school accreditation.
In the wake of the state board’s decision, Marlow said she will take her appeal to the next level.
“This ruling by the state Board of Education sends a clear message to local elected board members across Georgia: speak out when you see something wrong, and you will be punished. It should not be allowed to stand. I intend to appeal to the Superior Court,” Marlow said Monday.
Marlow was sanctioned by her fellow Cherokee School Board members during an ethics hearing last October for violating the board’s ethics policies by sending a letter independently to AdvancEd and asking for an investigation of the local school board.
After reviewing Marlow’s claims the School Board was unable to govern itself, as well as response from the school district, AdvancEd cleared the district, stating it was not in violation of any AdvancEd policies.
The Cherokee School Board voted to fine Marlow $3,600 to help cover part of the cost of her own hearing, after finding her guilty of violating two ethics policies.
Marlow made her case for an appeal to the state Board of Education on Jan. 13.
After hearing of the state school board’s ruling, Cherokee County School Board Chair Janet Read said she remains “focused on the students of our district,” and hopes the entire board is ready to move forward after the ruling.
“I was pleased that the state board upheld the decision of the local board,” Read said Tuesday. “I also appreciate all the time and effort our school board attorney put into this entire ethics hearing process.”
In her appeal to the state, Marlow claimed many reasons for overturning her ethics sanction, including: her right to due process was violated; she was denied the right to question the board chair about bias; she did not receive timely notice of the board’s decision to sanction her; the board did not properly define possible sanctions; the school board’s actions violated her First Amendment rights; and evidence did not support the local board’s decision.
The Georgia Department of Education rejected Marlow’s claims in a response sent Monday with an explanation of why each of Marlow’s claims was dismissed.
“For the reasons set forth above,” the conclusion of the state DoE response letter reads, “it is the opinion of the state Board of Education that the decision of the local board is supported by the evidence and, therefore, the decision of the local board is sustained.”
The ethics policies that Marlow was sanctioned for violating are: “Recognize that the authority of the board rests only with the board as a whole and not with individual board members and act accordingly,” and “Take no private action that will compromise the board of school system administration.”
In June, Marlow sent a letter to AdvancEd without approval from the school board.
In the letter, Marlow claimed the school board was unable to govern and was in violation of AdvancEd accreditation policies.
According to Georgia Code, Marlow has one more chance for an appeal.
The code states Marlow has a right to appeal the state board’s decision “to the Superior Court of the county wherein the local board of education is located.”