Americus Times-Recorder, Americus, Georgia

Local News

May 8, 2014

Sumter BOE fails to deny charter school petition

AMERICUS — In a confusing session Thursday night, played before a full house of citizens, the Sumter County Board of Education again discussed the petition for the Furlow Charter School.

Sumter School Superintendent Donnie Smith reported that a committee he had put together of 10 people from the Central Office had concluded its research of the petition and “had concerns” with the lottery system of choosing students, transportation and the “vagueness of the curriculum.” He said the committee recommends denying the petition for the charter school.

Board chair Edith Green asked for a motion to approve the charter school petition. Board member Penny Taft made the motion but it died due to lack of a second.

Board member Mike Mock said he found it “difficult” to believe that 10 people working for the school system could be unbiased. He asked why people from the community and outside businesses were not on the committee.

Smith said the Board had in previous years entertained two previous charter applications and he was “just following procedure.”

“I believe the committee reviewed this independently ... “ he said. “We didn’t have to have a committee; I did it because we had in years past.”

Board member Alice Green commented that since the petition was sent to the Board, that the Board should review it and make the decision.

At that point in the meeting, the superintendent handed out a packet of information to Board members concerning the resignation of newly elected District 1 Board member Doug Williams. Smith said Williams had sent a letter to the Board shortly after the election saying he was resigning for personal reasons. He said the certified letter had been signed for by an employee and placed in someone’s mailbox where it languished for several weeks. Smith said he saw the letter April 30 and shared it with the Board. He said on Thursday he had received a fax and an e-mail from the Governor, thanking Williams for his service.

Board member Michael Busman said the Board needs to pass a resolution so the Board can appoint a member to represent District 1 for the remainder of the calendar year. He asked that the attorney write the resolution so it can be approved before the next Board meeting.

Busman said the Board still needed to vote on the charter petition within 90 days.

“There has to be a vote taken, according to state law and local policy,” he said.

Alice Green took issue with Busman.

“The motion died due to the lack of a second,” said said.

When the superintendent asked for clarity, Alice Green said she neede clarity, too. There was quite a lot of back and forth between Alice Green and Busman. Smith said he would research the timeline for voting on the petition and text all Board members last night.

Busman then made a motion to deny the Furlow Charter School petition, which was seconded by Board member Meda Krenson. Smith asked for any discussion and was met with silence for several minutes. When Board Chair Edith Green called for the yea votes, there were none. When she asked for the nay votes, Busman, Krenson and Mock raised their hands. Taft abstained.

There was then some talking among Board members and Chairman Green said, “We’re all kind of confused.”

She said she wanted to change her vote and wants to vote for the denial of the petition. Busman took issue, saying that the vote had already taken place and there was not a two-thirds majority. Edith Green insisted on voting.

“I didn’t not vote but had an opportunity to vote,” she said. “So I vote for denying the petition.”

Alice Green asked that they “go through the process again.”

Taft suggested they get clarity and revisit the matter later. Board member Kelvin Pless concurred.

“If everyone’s already made up their minds,” Busman said, “why vote again?”

Taft said she was under the impression that the Board would not be voting on this issue until the June meeting.

“If given more time, I might change my vote,” she said.

Busman suggested they revisit it in two weeks and Alice Green said, “It failed so we should move on.”

Mock said, “It didn’t pass or fail. There has to be a two-thirds vote for or against.”

Pless said he wanted to “take care of it tonight” and asked the chair is she needed a motion. Edith Green said there had already been a motion, a second and a vote.

The superintendent said he would add discussion of the petition to the agenda for the retreat which will be held Saturday at Marion County High School.

The Board voted to go into closed session to discuss personnel matters and later came back into open session.

Board member Michael Lewis, chairman of the personnel committee, moved to accept the revised personnel agenda of resignations, terminations due to budget cuts, hirings and transfers.

Busman asked that since there had been additions to the personnel agenda, shouldn’t the personnel committee have to vote on the changes? The chair say no.

Before adjourment, Kelvin Pless spoke again on the charter school petition.

“It’s my personal conviction that we should take care of this petition tonight.” he said. “This committee put a lot of work into this.”

Edith Green said they would discuss it again at the Saturday retreat.

Pless said “I’m not OK with it but I accept it.”

The items approved on the personnel agenda included the following.

• Resignations: Latresha Taylor, Heather Hodge, Cynthia Hanson and Viola Fedd

• Terminations due to budget cuts: Shamona Davis, Barbara Haynes, Rosa Dodson, special education paraprofessionals; Regina Odom, Barbara Holloway, Latonya Harvey media paraprofessionals; and Gwen Williams, administrative assistant, transportation department.

• Employment: Carolyn Dowdey, Micahel Hoffpauir and Joshua Lambert

Transfers: Ashley Saint, Dale Carter, Ashlee Parks, Priscilla Floyd, Sylvia Helms, Alison Gilliam, Trenna Felton, Linda Williamson, Heather Reynolds, Jarrod White, Gia Sandwich, Barbee Cowan, Tracy Palmer, Lisa Allen, Sebrina Pitts, Ryan Fulton, Stacy Mack, Coleman Price, Chd Chafin, Todd Vickery and Wanda Jackson

• Family Medical Leave: Frederick Mohl

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