The rally was organized by Smart Citizens Rally Against Marlow, started by Christine Rea in response to Kelly Marlow’s June complaint and request for a formal investigation to AdvancED SACS, the agency charged with accreditation of schools in the South.
“I’m really proud of all of you,” Rea said to the crowd before introducing the first speaker. “We have had some obstacles and hurdles placed in our way the last 48 hours, but we have persevered.”
The rally originally was going to take place at the BridgeMill pavilion, but Friday afternoon Rea was notified by the BridgeMill Club manager that the event would have to be elsewhere because of the political nature of the event. By Saturday morning, Rea had found a new location for the rally.
Rea introduced nine speakers Monday that included CCSD parents, teachers, high school students and state Sen. Brandon Beach (R-Alpharetta), who attended the rally and voiced his support for the district.
Beach said the first thing companies and employers ask before coming into the county is, “Tell us about your education; tell us about your test scores.”
“The reason I ran was for the students and for education,” Beach said. “We can’t allow this to happen here in Cherokee County; we’ve got great administrators, we’ve got great leaders, our Chairman Janet Read, we’re (going) in the right direction.”
Beach said he’s visited several schools and was impressed by the teachers and administrators.
“We don’t have great jobs, we don’t have great parks, we don’t have good quality hospitals if we don’t have the foundation of great quality schools,” Beach said. “That’s the foundation; when you peel the onion back, it all starts with great quality education.”
Taylor Poole is a rising 10th-grader at Woodstock High School who said she’d been keeping up with reports of the situation and decided to speak at the rally.
“I feel very confused as to why Ms. Marlow is calling in the SACS committee,” Poole said. n will “SACS just came in about a year-and-a-half-ago and they found no problems with the way the board was functioning, or the schools, and I feel just appalled that she’s bringing them in because this is jeopardizing my future, and not only mine but all the other students in this district.”
Poole said she’s been going to school in the district for 10 years and is ranked fifth in her class, and said she has witnessed Marlow “waste valuable board time with petty arguments.”
“Ms. Marlow does have a chance to do the right thing,” Poole said. “I ask her to resign and leave the system in the hands of other board members.”
Clark Menard is a parent of two children in CCSD, one in elementary and one in middle school.
“When is asking questions a problem? When you continue to ask the same questions over and over and over, when you hear the answers but continue to ask the question,” Menard said. “Doing something over and over again and expecting different results is the definition of insanity.”
Menard said that there’s a difference between reform and radical change. He said reform is more gradual and “it sticks,” but radical change “is scary, uncomfortable, and a lot of times we backslide and find ourselves in an even worse place.”
Menard said that “you really have to know the box to think outside the box,” and “Marlow’s actions have shown us she doesn’t understand our box, that’s our schools system, therefore her actions have become a petulance exercise in resistance.”
Julie Olvin has two children in elementary school in CCSD, and said she got involved with SCRAM! as a parent who “has a lot of years ahead of me” with the school district. Olvin said her family moved to Cherokee for the schools.
“I have a lot of trust in the people that I leave my kids with every day,” Olvin said. “Before now, I have never had any complaints (with CCSD). But recently that has really changed; we all know why we’re here … As a parent, I see the attacks that Kelly Marlow has made on Cherokee County schools, and some of the personal attacks that she has made on some of the teachers, and that’s not something I can stand for.”
Olvin said she trusted CCSD teachers and administrators, but said, “I do not trust Kelly Marlow.”
“Kelly Marlow threatens the success of our school district, she threatens our administration and our teachers in ways that I think can only be called bullying, she threatens our accreditation,” Olvin said.
John Bowling is a rising senior at River Ridge High School and also spoke briefly at the rally. Bowling said , “We have worked too hard … to let it all go downhill.”
Jackie Kopeski was another one of the speakers at the rally, and said, “like Kelly Marlow, I’m a mom, I’ve got a calculator, it’s in my phone, it also has a clock and a calendar, and her time has run out.”
“Unlike Kelly Marlow, I’m a mom with skin in the game,” Kopeski said. “I have two children attending Cherokee County schools and I moved here in 2007 for that very reason.”
Kopeski said Marlow’s “40 advisers did not run for a political seat and neither did her political consultant.” She said Marlow, Trim and Marlow’s advisers should know that politics don’t have a place in the CCSD.
“We are armed with the facts, the facts are on our side, and the facts do not lie,” Kopeski said. “For the good of this community, we have to collectively do this.”
Kopeski said Marlow needs to “resign immediately.”
Jim Hughes said he was proud to stand with SCRAM! and said, “I support the call for her resignation.”
“She’s treated her post more as a vendetta platform than as a means of being productive, acting in the needs of our children,” Hughes said. “She’s created an atmosphere of division and embarrassment for our county.”
Amie Hannon is a CCSD teacher and said she was “happy to join the ranks” of SCRAM!
“My colleagues and I, at every elementary, middle and high school, will let nothing and no one stand in our way of promoting our schools as among the best in the state,” Hannon said. “Cherokee County School District should not be referred to as anything less than outstanding.”
Hannon said the petition asking for Marlow to rescind her complaint to AdvancED SACS showed that more than 1,100 people had already voiced concern for the students in CCSD. As of press time, the petition had more than 1,125 signatures.
Anita Geoghagan is a CCSD employee and said “once SCRAM! achieves its goal,” the Neighbors for a Better Cherokee committee will continue to fight for the community and their children.
“Our goal is to put into office candidates who do support public education,” Geoghagan said. “Our mission is to advocate for local control relative to public education initiatives and to support local political candidates who make public education and our community’s children their No. 1 priority.”
Near the end of the rally, a Cherokee County Sheriff’s deputy arrived in response to a disturbance in the crowd reported by Melody Rumpel, a woman in attendance at the rally who said she supported Marlow.
Rumpel claimed that a 61-year-old woman at the rally had stepped on her foot and said in the incident report, obtained by the Tribune, that “she believed she was targeted because of her support of Ms. Marlow and because ‘she was the only black person at this thing.’”
Rumpel is quoted in the police report as stating, “This women comes and stands directly in front of me, in my personal space. She makes contact with me with her back, and then she steps on my foot.”
Deputy Joseph Arena asked if the woman moved out of Rumpel’s personal space when requested and Rumpel stated “Yes, she moved when I asked her to,” according to the report.
The deputy said in the report that after inspecting Rumpel’s feet, there was no “bruising, swelling or cuts of any kind,” that “both feet appeared uninjured,” and “Rumpel was not exhibiting any difficulty walking or standing.”
The report states that Rumpel became upset and “stormed off before” she was given a case card for the incident.
A witness cited in the report said the woman apologized to Rumpel, and the report states that “he said Ms. Rumpel became upset at what he felt was nothing.”
Sheriff Deputy William Smith arrived to interview the woman Rumpel said had stepped on her foot, and stated in his report that the woman “appeared very upset and shaken up by the events,” and “was having trouble breathing.”
Smith said that he was concerned about the woman’s well-being and she appeared unsteady on her feet. After learning the woman had a pacemaker and health problems, “EMS was also contacted to come out and attend” to the woman.
According to Smith’s report, a witness said they “felt Ms. Rumpel just got loud in order to make a scene.” Another witness cited in the report stated they thought “Rumpel was trying to start something, because she kept pursuing the issue.”
The rally comes on the heels of the arrest by the Canton Police Department of Marlow, her campaign consultant Robert Trim and Cherokee County Republican Party Secretary Barbara Knowles over the weekend on charges of allegedly false statements to the police. All three were charged with a felony for providing a false statement.
A rally planned by Marlow for Monday night was postponed to a later unspecified date by the school board member Monday morning.