The board, which is charged with governing both Cherokee Charter Academy and Coweta Charter Academy, met via teleconference Thursday morning for about two hours.
Present were Chairwoman Lyn Carden, Vice Chairwoman Marian Parker, board members Bob Young, Danny Dukes, Christine Ries, Fred Black and John McIntyre; Marc Peev, executive director for Families for Better Public Schools; Charter Schools USA representatives Connie Standish, Danny Brewington and Hillary Daigle; Tiffany Pollack, Coweta’s principal; Vanessa Suarez, Cherokee’s principal; Heather Blevins, Cherokee Local Governing Council member; and Chris Delonge, Coweta Local Governing Council Member.
Peevy provided the group with an update on the campaign to promote the constitutional amendment and gave members a sampling of some of the printed materials that have been distributed.
He explained how the pro-charter side has had two focus points: an educational effort and a campaigning effort.
Peevy told the board that a third round of polling contracted by FBPS done by Walker and Associates suggests a continued support for the amendment with about 68 percent in favor of the amendment, 24 opposed and the remaining 8 percent undecided.
The group’s last poll in July showed the same amount of people were in favor of the amendment, according to its website.
“That I think is a very positive thing to be said of the consistency,” Peevy said.
He added that the survey results show there is strong support for the amendment among all age groups and demographics.
However, Peevy said he thinks the opposition is “clearly ramping up.” He said there have been many reports in the news media of school boards passing resolutions in opposition of the amendment.
“The interesting part is they are almost word-for-word the exact same,” Peevy said. “That tells me there’s a one-size-fits-all approach from the local school board perspective, which is probably parroting word-for-word from the (Georgia School Board Association.)”
Peevy said he is looking forward to a busy month for the campaign and touted a strong, grassroots team of supporters that is working to reach out to local media and civic organizations for support.
He added that the argument against the amendment is for money and local control of education.
“The governor’s office has made it very plain, very clear that… these schools will operate, once this amendment has passed, with two-thirds of the dollars that go to traditional public schools,” Peevy said.
Under the new amendment, Peevy said that local control is still intact, as local school boards “still get the first bite of the apple” in the sense that charter petitioners must first apply to their local board of education.
Another issue Peevy denounced was that mostly out-of-state money is funding the campaign.
“(We have) almost triple the number of Georgians who have donated to (the opposition’s) campaign,” Peevy said.
Peevy said the money from outside Georgia comes from the Walton Family Foundation, which has also donated to Atlanta Public Schools. Additionally, the campaign donations are from CSUSA, K12 and National Heritage Academy.
“All three of those are actively serving Georgia students and their parents,” Peevy said.
Carden also weighed in on her frustrations with the “opposition.”
“I get angry because all kinds of accusations are being made,” Carden said. “The bottom line is all we’re trying to do is educate our kids.”
Dukes agreed, saying the Walton Family has a “huge footprint” in the state, making the claims of outside money a “moot argument.”
In new business, Carden said she will bring two proposals to next month’s meeting to address a possible change in the way the board fulfills quorum and a potential option for how board members could vote in advance of a meeting if they cannot attend.
Carden said board rules outline that quorum is at 40 percent, or three of seven members. Most members said they were comfortable with absentee rather than by-proxy voting, and it was tentatively decided that quorum would be reduced to two-thirds or a general majority.
Additionally, Carden will be leading a board development committee with Young and Reis as members until Earnest Taylor, who ahs been on an extended leave of absence from the board, returns.
“To reach our goal to grow the size of the board, we need to have a stronger board to meet the expectations,” Carden said.
After the meeting, Carden said the board voted several months ago to increase the size of the board from eight to 11.
“The goal of GCEF is to build quality charters across state,” Carden said. “In order to do that properly, we need representation across the state of Georgia. We’ll be identifying people from across state that would be good representatives for our board.”
In other business, the board unanimously approved July and August financials for Cherokee and Coweta.