CHEROKEE — Superintendent of Schools Dr. Frank Petruzielo recommended three revisions to board policy at its meeting Thursday, including ad hoc committees, board-superintendent relations and board meeting agendas.
Prior to the board’s discussion and voting, three citizens voiced their opinions about the recommended changes. The first was Thomas Hart, who opposed all three revisions. The second speaker, Chris Knowles, also opposed the revisions.
“These really don’t reflect Cherokee County,” Knowles said. “It’s clear that the kind of dysfunction that this report calls out is not the kind of dysfunction that is dealt with today by this board and by the superintendent.”
Knowles said he didn’t want to see Cherokee County schools go down the same path as Atlanta, Clayton or DeKalb public schools.
“I believe the frustration that you see in the public is that there isn’t an open and honest dialogue, there isn’t communication, and what communication comes out is not clear.”
The third speaker, Carol Taylor, said after reading accounts of the last two board meetings and the board’s recent training she wanted to thanked the board for the recommendations.
“I believe it is thoughtful and prudent for the board to ensure their their t’s are crossed and their i’s dotted,” Taylor said. “These revisions will make certain that it is unlikely that actions of this board will jeopardize district accreditation and status in the future.”
Taylor said her family used to live in DeKalb County and moved to Cherokee from Washington, D.C., seven years ago seeking a high quality school board and education.
“With these recommended modifications, I’m confident it will ensure we will never have the worries of accreditation probation as DeKalb has.”
The board then moved on to discussion votes on the first readings of the three revisions, starting with the revision to policy on board officers. Board member Michael Geist said he didn’t see justification for the clarifications on sanctions or managing of the board members speaking.
“We can certainly spend a lot of time and probably write a half dozen more rules about things we’re afraid might happen,” Geist said. “But we should, I think, be more concerned about what we have seen happen and whether or not the policy reflects what has happened in the past rather than what we’re worried about happening in the future, because those worries are limitless.”
Board Chair Janet Read noted that the staff wrote the revisions based on recommendations made during the recent board governance training, coordinated by the Georgia School Boards Association and School Board Attorney Tom Roach.
The first reading of the recommendation to revise board policy on board officers passed 4-3, with Geist, Marlow and Rob Usher opposing. Geist had a similar objection to the second recommended revision of policy on board-superintendent relations.
“We are establishing policy that the board shall not create ad hoc committees,” Geist said. “Restricting the people is a dangerous precedent.”
Read noted that, during training two weeks ago, the board discussed how ad hoc committees are the Superintendents and the board doesn’t have committees. Read pointed out that only Rick Steiner and herself had submitted names for the ad hoc committee that were requested previously and said board members have the opportunity to submit names for the Superintendent’s ad hoc committee and to hold their own meetings. Read also confirmed that Marlow held a meeting last week and Marlow confirmed she had around 30 attendees.
Marlow asked if the ad hoc committees are open to the public or board members and Read answered “No.” Read asked if Marlow had turned her names in for the committee yet and confirmed she had not. Read also asked if Geist had turned in names for the ad hoc committee and then confirmed he had not.
Marlow moved to amend the second recommended change, and Geist seconded the motion, and it was voted down 3-4 with Marlow, Usher and Geist in favor of the amendment.
The first reading of the original recommended revisions to policy regarding board-superintendent relations was passed 4-3, with Marlow, Usher and Geist opposing.
Robert Wofford suggested there were problems with the third revision recommendation to policy on board meeting agendas.
“I would like to suggest something along the lines of, we need to submit our agenda items two weeks prior to the board meeting,” Wofford said. “We’d at least have a chance to look at concerns and problems.”
Geist raised concern for time-sensitive items and suggested adding language to the revision that would address these items. Usher agreed with Geist and Wofford. Petruzielo said he supported Geist’s modification on time-sensitive items but changed Geist’s proposed language in the revision to be “acceptable.”
Marlow made a motion to consider striking the item in the third policy revision recommendation that said “The Board Chair and Superintendent will decide if the item will be placed on the agenda for discussion at the ensuing School Board meeting.”
Marlow’s amendment, to the proposed revision to policy on board meeting agendas, to strike the item passed 5-2, with board members Patsy Jordan and Steiner opposing. A motion was made to vote on the third policy revision with the item removed, and failed 1-6 with Marlow in favor.
In other news, the board approved a construction proposal to use Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax revenue to convert an existing Sequoyah High School classroom into a video broadcast classroom. The project will cost $400,000 and will be done by Headley Construction.
The board also selected Williamson and Company, CPAs for the CCSD 2011-12 and 2012-13 budget years’ independent financial audits. The vote passed 6-1 with Marlow opposed.
Also during the meeting, the board approved the monthly financial report and sales tax update.