Marlow made six claims against the School Board, the staff and Superintendent Dr. Frank Petruzielo in a letter she sent to AdvancED, the agency that includes the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, or SACS.
AdvanceEd confirmed the letter was received Tuesday and that the agency plans to review the claims.
“It is because of my grave concern for the corruption I have personally witnessed that I am calling for a formal investigation into the conduct of our board and of our professional staff including, but not limited to, our superintendent and board chair,” Marlow said in her letter.
In the letter dated June 11, Marlow wrote to AdvancED Director Mike Bryans that, in her opinion, “the Board of Education in Cherokee is no longer able to effectively govern the school system.”
The letter follows recently disclosed complaints made against Marlow by some teachers and parents to the CCSD.
AdvancED Vice President of Communications Jennifer Oliver said Marlow’s letter arrived in the mail June 18, but they have not had a chance to review it.
Oliver said AdvancED will review the letter and look to see if “standards or procedures regarding accreditation have been violated.”
In her letter, Marlow claimed that the CCSD, Georgia School Boards Association and the Superintendents Association used “constant threat of a SACS investigation to render the members of our board of education completely useless.”
Petruzielo said Marlow’s claims were inaccurate and his staff looked forward to addressing the claims with the accrediting agency.
“These allegations are fraught with inaccuracies and innuendo,” Petruzielo said. “The school district staff is eager to respond to any requests from AdvancED officials in this regard.”
The first of the reasons Marlow gave for requesting an investigation was that School Board chair Janet Read was “incapable of performing her duties” during meetings, and “routinely violates board policy and state law through inappropriate personal relationships with the professional staff.”
Read responded Tuesday to Marlow’s allegations and her call for an investigation.
“I am not concerned about the opportunity to speak with representatives of AdvancED. I believe it will be very evident to AdvancED that very few things about our system have changed since they renewed our district accreditation in 2011 and commended our leadership team,” Read said.
Marlow’s second claim was that Read allowed Petruzielo to “routinely and publicly insult taxpayers, students, and elected state and local officials in an accusatory and inflammatory manner” and that he has a “track record of causing discord among our community.”
Read, who is the county’s first-ever elected board chair, pointed to her three terms as a school board member.
“Over the past 15 years I have served the students of the public school district of this county in PTA leadership roles and now during my third term on the school board. During that time my integrity, motives and priorities have never wavered and have never been in question. I will continue to remain steadfast, sincere and dedicated to consistency in my No.1 priority — making decisions that best benefit the public school students of Cherokee County,” Read said.
Marlow’s other claims in her letter to AdvancED included an allegation that Read permitted the school board attorney “to insert a surprise agenda item at an official board meeting after the agenda had been approved” at the meeting on Jan. 17, that Read “allows the public and professional staff to mislead, intimidate and threaten sitting board members,” that Read and staff “refuse to provide material and relevant information requested by elected board members;” and that Read “maintains a close personal relationship with a professional staff member who has publicly admitted to manipulating the local newspaper outlet.”
Marlow included in her letter various “exhibits” that include what she sees as evidence of her accusations.
AdvancED SACS conducts reaccreditation visits every five years, and CCSD was last reviewed and reaccredited between Oct. 30 and Nov. 2, 2011. The leader of the 2011 AdvancED SACS visit was Donna James.
In the 2011 reaccreditation recommendation from SACS, it is reported that James met with seven school board members, 115 administrators, 121 teachers, 27 support staff, 83 students, 120 parents, community and business partners and visited eight schools.
“It was apparent we were in a high-flying, high- achieving school district,” James said in in the recommendation. “Leaving feedback for improvements is a challenge.”
Also in the recommendation, the team that reviewed CCSD issued four commendations, and James added that Petruzielo “has done an amazing job of modeling effective leadership.”
“Strong visionary leadership and governance of the superintendent, school board, district administration and school leaders,” one of the commendations read. “Who collectively foster a culture of improvement for teaching and learning throughout the district.”
The CCSD was put on accreditation probation in 1998 based on a complaint written to SACS that outlined areas of concern against the district.
When contacted for comment Tuesday by the Cherokee Tribune, Marlow issued a statement that she would address the situation today with the media.