The school board will appoint someone in the meantime to fill the seat until Jan. 1.
Immediately after the meeting was called to order Thursday, a large crowd began cheering and clapping, continuing into a 30-second standing ovation.
The historic Canton High School Board Auditorium was packed with a standing room only crowd, full of students, parents and community leaders, for the meeting Thursday night, which began just hours after Marlow and two of her associates were sentenced to jail time and 10 years of probation for their felony convictions last Saturday.
School Board Attorney Tom Roach explained the process of filling the District 1 vacancy on the board left by Marlow when she resigned from her seat.
“The only opportunity we’ll have for a special election will be at the same time as the General Election,” Roach said, and explained the election would be Nov. 4.
In the meantime, Roach said local law allows for the board to appoint someone to fill the vacancy until Jan. 1, when a newly elected board member can be sworn in after the special election.
“I would recommend doing what is similar to what we’ve done in the past … that we solicit applications from individuals who may be interested in the seat,” Roach said.
The board agreed interested individuals should fill out an application packet, and agreed to approve the process for filling the temporary vacancy at its May 15 meeting.
The board will select the interim school board member at its June 19 meeting.
Marlow, her former political adviser and fiance, Robert Trim, and former secretary of the Cherokee County Republican Party Barbara Knowles falsely accused Petruzielo of trying to run them down with his car after a heated board meeting last year.
Knowles, who made the initial 911 call accusing Petruzielo, was charged with three felonies and one misdemeanor for lying to police, while Marlow and Trim were charged with two felonies each.
All three were sentenced to 10 years of probation, and 60 days of jail time to be served within the first year.
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Frank Petruzielo and others could be seen wearing school bus yellow clothes at the meeting.
Petruzielo did not comment on the color of his shirt at the meeting, but the color is the same used by a local activist group to represent its fight to oust Marlow while she was on the board.
Kelly Kind Poole, of Canton, spoke to the board during the public comment portion of the meeting, and said she was relieved Marlow was off the board.
Poole’s daughter, who attends high school in the district, had spoken at previous board meetings and asked for Marlow to resign for the 39,000 children of the district.
“Although justice was served earlier today and this member is no longer present, this does not bring her, or myself, great joy,” Poole said. “We want to thank the board for their continued service, and look forward to seeing our schools back in the news for the right reasons. Thank you, and God bless you for your service.”
The audience also loudly applauded and cheered after Poole’s comments.
Also at the meeting, Petruzielo presented information on the Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax.
Petruzielo explained the voter-approved SPLOST money had been used during the past 15 years to replace many old schools and build new schools, to accommodate the county’s increasing enrollment rate.
Petruzielo said residents who move to the county since the new schools have been built can contribute to the cost through continued renewal of the Ed SPLOST referendum.
“The debt is to pay for buildings … that are going to be used by kids for the next, 30, 40 or 50 years,” he said.
Petruzielo explained the district uses low-interest bonds to fund the new schools, and uses the SPLOST revenue to retire the debt.
He said the district’s plan calls for 20 years of regular payments to retire the existing debt, which is “similar to a home mortgage.”
Petruzielo said “even the least objective observer” can understand the Board of Education “has done a darn good job” of building infrastructure for students now and in the future.
“There’s no ‘exploding debt,’ all that is exploding are good ideas for dealing with overcrowding, and all that’s happened is now all of our students are in clean, well-lit, safe schools with enough places for them to sit,” Petruzielo said.
Enrollment in the fall of 2000 was recorded at 26,043 students, with an average growth of 1,030 additional students each year and a school capacity of 21,866 — facing critical school overcrowding.
Petruzielo said the first Ed SPLOST was passed by voters in 2001, allowing the district to begin moving student out of mobile classrooms with the addition of eight new schools and three replacement schools.
Ed-SPLOST can be renewed every five years by voters, and has passed each vote since 2001.
The 2006 Ed-SPLOST funded four new schools and one replacement school, and the 2011 Ed-SPLOST funded three replacement schools.
Since the first Ed-SPLOST, the district’s enrollment has grown from 26,043 students to 39,600 students, with an additional 500 or so students expected to enroll next school year.
The district’s capacity is now at 40,717, and for the first time in 15 years the district can accommodate all students without the need to use mobile classrooms at many schools.
“This is the first time in 15 years we’ve finally got a place for every kid to sit,” Petruzielo said. “The people that would tell you that we have exploding debt obviously don’t understand this paradigm. They either need some kind of a math lesson or a history lesson. Something that would inform them about what has happened here.”
Also at the meeting Thursday:
• The board recognized Woodstock High School senior Brianna Jackson for winning a 2014 Award of Excellence from the Georgia Department of Education. Jackson served as an honorary school board member during part of the meeting, and a poem she wrote was shared as the inspiration for the meeting;
• The board recognized Katherine Morawa from Etowah High School for winning a National Spanish Examination junior travel award;
• The board recognized Dalton West of Canton Elementary School for winning a National READ 180 All-Star award;
• The board recognized the 2014 Helen Ruffin Reading Bowl winners;
• The board recognized state and region technology fair winners;
• The board recognized Clark Creek Elementary School FIRST LEGO League Robotics Teams as regional champions;
• The board recognized state and regional sports achievements at River Ridge High School and Woodstock High School;
• The board recognized Claire Jordan from Cherokee High School as the 2014 Oak Leaf Church scholarship winner;
• The board recognized Riley Jenkins and Cynda Tate from Creekview High School for winning 2014 Waste Management Inc. scholarships;
• The board recognized Carmel and Clark Creek elementary schools for participating in the Parental Awareness for Safe Schools program; and
• The board approved a new partnership agreement with the Macedonia Community Club, and renewed an existing partnership with Young Harris College.