Cherokee County Schools: What to do next? Part 1

on July 30 | in z300 | by | with 30 Comments

Where does an elected School Board member go for help when they are prevented from performing their duties due to a culture of intimidation and the avoidance of questions? After months of receiving responses instead of direct answers, I made the difficult decision to send a letter to one of the state accreditation entities (SACS). Many have asked about my motivation and why I chose to do what I did.  I hope to shed some light on those questions.

Everything I do as an elected official is done because I represent the citizens who elected me to make sound and responsible financial decisions with a HALF BILLION dollars of their tax money. The Board of Education hires the Superintendent and checks his work, I believe in the American system of checks and balances.  What I mean is that our board is tasked with holding our district Administration accountable. This is not my opinion or anything having to do with politics. It is state law. Seeking answers about where the money is going (or in the case of the 2011 audit–where did it go?) is the job of the board.

There are in fact multiple questions I have asked of the Administration and of our Board Chair that went unanswered both in public meetings as well as in electronic mail.  The May 2013 Board work session was the most blatant example as a room filled with citizens looked on in disbelief as our Superintendent crossed his arms and refused to answer my direct question about the Fiscal Year 2011 audit. The exchange went something like this: My question, “Sir, is that a yes or a no?” The reply was, “that is a non-answer!” Again during the June 2013 board meeting (which is available on video), I asked our Board Chair to direct the Superintendent to answer my questions. She refused and stated “I do not direct the Superintendent.”

If this elected Board of Education does not direct the Superintendent and he is not elected by the voters, to whom is he accountable? For the record, no one in the main stream press that night, bothered to cover this blatant insubordinate action.

Fear and intimidation are classic tactics used by the Administration, but they are now being exposed as causing more harm than good for our community.  In my letter to SACS  there is not one single expression of concern about the performance of  teachers, staff or students within Cherokee County Schools, yet Principals, teachers, PTA leaders and parents have ganged up against me  in what has been characterized as union mob like behavior.  Who are these thugs and what are they so afraid of?

As a board, we trust our teachers to teach, the administrators to lead, the bus drivers to transport our children safely, the custodians to clean, the police to keep our children safe and so on. Everyone has a job to do and it is the job of the board to make sure we are spending our money wisely. Our school district is over 1/3 BILLION dollars in debt. That means our children will be saddled with this debt until well past 2030 if we don’t add one more penny of debt.  Is it really fair to suggest that a board member who challenges this kind of spending is against children?

The financial audits show that our district has written off millions of dollars that may have been used to eliminate furlough days in past years. We will never get that instructional time back and our children have suffered for it.

According to the administration, the state said that we satisfied the requirement to conduct an audit. That does not mean all is well.  The state specifically directed the Board to make sure the problems were corrected.

Part Two runs on July 31 in this space.

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30 Responses to Cherokee County Schools: What to do next? Part 1

  1.' Bailey Garner says:

    I don’t think this is an issue of asking questions. It’s an issue of acting on her own and sending a letter to SACS. Yes citizens should feel comfortable asking questions, BUT act appropriately when they get an answer that they may not like. Dr. P even had the financial advisors answer questions and explain the Moody’s rating. One completely ignored those two gentlemen and asked how the BOE felt about the downgrade. No one will be happy with a downgrade, but you have to look at it in the context of state funding. Decreasing the amount of the reserves was unavoidable in order to provide students with adequate and healthy learning environments. Again, no one likes debt either, BUT unfortunately our state and country has tons of it. Debt is bound to trickle down to the county when the state owes the county a significant amount of money! Many at the meeting who had tax payer concerns left before the answers had an opportunity to be given. Also, I felt that some who had these questions could have read the material handed out by Mrs. Jacoby and have their questions answers. I feel that if you have questions, an effort to look for and accept the answers they find is the askers responsibility.

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  3.' Judi Haggerty says:

    I have watched Ms. Marlow since before she took office. I had no problem with her asking questions, or even the incongruous way she said she was “just a mom with a calculator” when she was running. However, not knowing how to conduct herself, and not knowing how to respect the position of a board member concerns me. The fact that she called names when she called me “minion” and part of a “union mob mentality” tells me she cares nothing about the people who are in the post or county that she represents.

  4.' Emily Murphy says:

    Dear Ms. Marlow,

    I will not hide behind a pseudonym. I am a senior at Woodstock High School, and my family lives in District One, in your own neighborhood. The manner that you have represented my district is infuriating to me. Your drastic actions in filing a formal complaint to SACS directly affects the almost 39,000 students of this school system — and me personally. I attended the July BOE meeting and the points that one of my fellow students made were well delivered and completely on point. I take offense to someone calling her “clueless.” The many arguments from the SCRAM supporters were varied, articulate and well thought out, while your supporters’ arguments seemed, to me, to be one dimensional and focused solely on fiscal questions, which had nothing to do with impending vote on your ethics hearing.

    It’s clear to me that your supporters were at the meeting to make a political point, and you nor your supporters are not acting in the best interest of the students.

    By the way, I’m not a thug.

  5.' Sue Ann says:

    Thugs? You mean the voters and tax payrrs on this county? Thugs? You can’t believe this kind of letter is helpful. Your questions were answered. Your behavior was noted. You, Ms. Marlow are the embarrassment to this county. Resign now and be done with it!

  6. Parent says:

    Kelly, you’ve now referred to the parents of Cherokee County students as “minions” and “thugs” and up have the audacity to wonder why people aren’t taking you seriously? I have an MBA, as well as four children in CCSD. I am neither a thug or a minion. I do, however, have the ability to easily understand when someone explains budget questions to me vs not wanting to acknowledge their answers, simply because I don’t like the answer. (Which, lets be clear, people, is exactly what’s happening here. There are open records of emails which illustrate that those questions have been answered over and over.). Lets stop with the conspiracy theories about how everyone is against you, including the superintendent of schools and the police chief… I mean, is everyone in authority in Cherokee County really out to get you?

    Stop the name calling, Kelly. Stop the conspiracy theories. Start doing your research and the job you wanted.

  7.' Concerned Grandparent says:

    Ms. Marlow, You are wrong. The audit stated there has been no misappropriation of funds by the CCSD. You are being used as a puppet by political consultants. You have a personal problem with the Superintendent and the board Chairman because you continue to ask the same questions that have already been answered time and time again. You are wasting more tax money by bringing in the SACS/AdvancED investigation, by making false statements to the police against the Superintendent, and by voting to censure yourself because you went “rogue” and unnecessarily called in the SACS to investigate. To date, the SACS has stated they have found nothing wrong. At the last Board meeting your supporters refused to accept copies of the CCSD budget or the audit showing no improprieties and left the meeting before answers to their questions were offered. None of the other school board members are questioning the Superintendent or the Chairman. Only you.

    You and your supporters are not interested in answers. You just want to accuse others. Your children do not attend the Cherokee County Schools. They attend the charter school, so you have nothing to lose by jeopardizing a highly-rated school system and its hard-working students and teachers for political purposes. Resign.

  8.' Volfan says:

    I am pretty sure SAT scores focus on critical thinking.

  9.' Parent says:

    Anyone who has been or watched a school board meeting must see the disrespect that our school superintendent is to anyone who disagrees with him. I do not think a board member has ever challenged him and he does not know what to do. Good for Kelly Marlow! Someone sitting on that board needs to understand the audit. It is apparent that none of the other Board members do.

    I am anxious to see this play out.

  10.' JJ says:

    I give Ms Marlow credit for asking the tough questions!

  11.' Kara Martin says:

    I would like to state that I was at the last board meeting. And I did in fact applaud for all individuals who had achievements announced. I saw many people applaud. I do not see why those of us who support Ms. Marlow have been labeled as anti Cherokee County or against children. It seems very childish. Honestly name calling, personal insults and bringing up individuals home life seems to be a growing problem in this county. Instead of focusing on the issues at hand. Many people feel that the answers given in regards to the finances by the board are not actual answers. if someone asks me what i did with my money and I say paid bills, yes that is an answer. But if they then ask me for a clear cut detailed list of what bills line by line and my response is house hold bills and a total then that answer would no be sufficient would it? In the same way those are the generalized answers the board is giving us and yet there are those who seem to think this is fine. I do not understand. Why is it such an issue to give a detailing of the money. Or better yet why is that request answered with sarcasm and attacks? Why is vague good enough? I am sure the questions I asked above will be answered with nastiness, sarcasm, personal attacks and insults. regardless of my belief that the board has done some very good things the fact that I do not agree that they are perfect will surely open me up to a ton of negativity. I hope some day differences in opinion will not result in the recent behavior we have seen in this county by so many.

  12.' Keep your boot on their kneck says:

    No wonder you can’t graduate kids in Cherokee, only 53% can even do algebra. If they lost 9 million then the parents who are whining and complaining ought to be forced to wear sandwich boards of shame. Maybe they could say “we are parents and we are poor examples for our children but they have good SAT scores” The woman is doing her job and the superintendent is clearly not wanting her to look at the money.

    I just don’t understand the parents who can’t get out of there own way and realize it is not about SAT scores it is about learning a holistic approach and the ability to think critically. Sadly the last part is the exact reason why these children are doomed. The parents can’t think critically so to expect it from their children is certainly too much to ask.

  13.' Concerned parent says:

    ‘Thugs’? Really? I’m a parent with GRAVE concerns about your actions, Kelly Marlow! How immature of you to call parents that are concerned about our children’s education, thugs. And now expect our support? You really are living in a fantasy world!!!

  14.' Exasperated says:

    Ms. Marlow,

    Please stop saying this is just about asking questions! You asked your questions, they were answered. I have read ALL of the emails regarding this subject from the Open Records Request, and I found the answers. Not liking (or understanding) the answers to your questions does not mean you did not receive them.

    The only victim in all of this are the students if the Cherokee County School District, for whom YOUR supporters refused to acknowledge or applaud when their achievements were announced at the lat school board meeting.

  15.' Taxpayer says:

    As a long time Cherokee County tax payer, I encourage other residents to request answers to the discrepancy and questions with the BOE debit before anyone votes yes on any increase of school funds, Esplost funds etc. if there are no factual results and you can’t review each line item and get responsible answers, then don’t ask for more money from the rest of the county residents.
    The display of a group at the last BOE meeting on TV was embarrassing for our county. It’s our, tax payer responsibility to ask questions, it’s not politics. it’s responsibility, accountability.

  16.' Nan says:

    Why, exactly, are you on the Board of Education for Cherokee County?

  17.' Cindy Murphy says:

    These “THUGS” happen to be the citizens in the district that YOU represent who very clearly disagree with the manner in which you are performing your job. Questioning is fine, but causing chaos and turning the attention away from making positive improvements,is not. Please step aside.

  18.' Monte Bores says:

    Very well put! I attended the July BOE meeting and witnessed some very immature behavior by a lot of adults and one clueless, but articulate, student. Those who spoke against Ms. Marlow did not focus on or address the crux of the matter–FISCAL ACCOUNTABILITY–making me feel like I was watching a bunch of high schoolers who have taken sides based purely on popularity, not facts. But taxpayers, who fund school budgets, care about the facts of this matter. It would be helpful to have Mr. Petruzielo and the Board Chair each write a nice run down explaining their own perspective of this whole affair as clearly as Ms. Marlow has done here.

    •' Kelly Poole says:

      @Monte Bores – Hi, let me introduce myself, my name’s Kelly Poole. (Please note, I am not hiding behind any made up moniker, because when you have the facts, you don’t have to!) I am the mother of the so-called “clueless” student that you referenced in your post. Her name happens to be Taylor Poole, a sophomore at Woodstock High School. I do appreciate the fact that you called her articulate, at least you got something right. I can only believe that you have never spoken to my daughter or “clueless” would be one of the least appropriate things you could say about her. You could call her intelligent, fearless, independent, well-spoken, but “clueless” never in a million years. I can only assume that you chose not to listen to her speech or don’t like to hear the truth, so I will post it below for you. I’ll skip the introduction and just get to it.

      Are you still with me?

      In the packet you will receive, I have included one sample of board member responsibilities that I have collected from online resources. In all of them, one of the main attributes for a board member is to keep the children first and provide the best possible education for those children. The letter that was written to SACS by a sitting board member disregards that. (Ms. Marlow did not worry about the possible effects of a SACS investigation on our district. She kept mentioning her grave concerns about the functionality of the school board.) You are my voice, when the letter was written and sent off to SACS, were any of the almost 39,000 students that you represent asked their opinion about their school system? I believe that you will find most CCSD high school students are well-versed and have a valuable opinion regarding their education.

      For students nearing graduation, accreditation is everything. HOPE scholarships depend on graduating from an accredited institution or else, the qualifications are more stringent for eligibility in the program, if at all. My future college of choice is contingent upon my graduating from an accredited high school and I do not like that you are jeopardizing my future. The SACs letter, which you all received a copy of, states that the Board of Education is no longer able to effectively govern the school system and there is a lack of control and leadership by the Board Chair. Since SACS reaccredited our system in 2012, the only change that has occurred in the school board make up is the addition of two board members.

      Finally, as elected officials and school board members, I expect you to be positive role models. Recent behavior by some board members is not acceptable. Arrests are not convictions, but are a cause for concern and embarrassment to our system. I ask those of you responsible for the current situation to reflect upon your actions and to resign for the good of all the students.

      Thank you.

      And that is exactly what she stated. The immature behavior that you saw, I would have to agree on. Debbie Dooley sat directly in front of me with a gentleman in a Paul Braun shirt recording everything that was happening in my row. Also, neither one clapped during the student recognition portion of the agenda. Whether they agree or disagree as to the supposed audit deficiencies, there was no need to show a lack of respect to the students or the teachers that work hard to accomplish so much.

      So, until you can come out and say who you really are, you and your words are like your alias – have no meaning to me!

      •' Kelly Poole says:

        I have since learned that Monte is a real person, so the last sentence in my previous reply should be deleted. A more fitting one would be, you like your last name bore me.

      •' Christine 'Tubby' Rea says:

        Ms. Poole, it should be noted that you were a member of Kyla Cromer’s losing campaign to Marlow a year ago and have been a Marlow Hater since before she took office.

        Your agenda is clear – payback and revenge due to your candidate’s inability to win. Which is understandable – who among us likes to lose? But in reality, you’re just like the Obama-hating Tea Partiers you heap disdain upon – you hated Marlow the moment that the lazy horse you hitched your wagon to was defeated by her…and actually in the months prior to that.

        Just like the Republican Party you claim to be a member of and their treatment of anything Obama proposes, you and your ilk were never going to give Marlow a chance so 100% of your complaints ring hollow, due to your obvious, biased agenda of revenge and hatred.

        And while I salute the job you’ve done in raising a daughter who has confidence and poise, only a fool would believe she came up with any part of that speech without your assistance.

        •' Concerned Grandparent says:

          Christine ‘Tubby’ Rea –

          You are very cruel to use Christine’s name with the derogatory description.
          You are very cruel to criticize a 17-year old student.
          You are very cruel to attack her mother.
          You are very cruel to call the opposition “thugs.”

          The owner of this site is correct describing this as a “Jerry Springer” event.

          Ms. Marlow, put an end to this. Resign.

          •' Christine 'Tubby' Rea says:

            Concerned Grandparent –

            You should re-read my post. If you do, you’ll see that:

            -I never criticized a 17 yr old student. In fact, I complimented both her and the job her mother had done in raising her.
            -I didn’t ‘attack’ her mother – I merely pointed out the woman’s obvious, hate-filled agenda.
            -I never even typed the word ‘thugs’ in my reply.

            Ms. Rea is a childish human being with a personal vendetta and a kindergarten-sounding little facebook group ans has earned ever derogatory description one can heap upon her. I make no apologies.

            Please Concerned Grandparent – look into taking an Eye Exam soon. Your reply was filled with error and outright lies. You are very cruel to be driving around with eyesight that’s so poor.

        •' Kelly Poole says:

          Actually, my daughter is a much better writer than her mother. She didn’t need my help at all. Apparently you do though, because you stole someone else’s name and tried to make it your own. Yes, I was involved in the opponents campaign, however that doesn’t make my opinion any less valid than yours. I would also like to state that Kyla Cromer only lost by 25 votes – not a landslide victory in any case. I would hardly consider Ms. Cromer a lazy horse either, she volunteers countless hours in our community, so another piece of fiction from you. As a matter of fact, the only thing factual in your comment is that I raised a daughter who is confident and has poise.

          •' Christine 'Tubby' Rea says:

            25 or 2222225. A loss is a loss.

            Using one’s children to push one’s own personal or political agenda is despicable, Ms. Poole. Not that I’m surprised, considering the source.

  19.' Steely Dan says:

    Nice of Kelly to not mention she is currently out on bond facing a felony charge after she told the police that the School Superintendent tried to run her over in downtown Canton, the night of the June 2013 meeting.

    •' Citizen says:

      Let me ask you this? Were you standing next to her as this happened? Did you see the incident? If so then you are withholding evidence and should come forth, otherwise shut up. That is he said and she said and only two people really know what happened. Don’t comment on stuff you have no clue about.

      As for the article her actions are just and watching the video and living in Cherokee I have concerns about this as well. She is only bring up something that nobody wants to talk about. Giving her balls that most of elected officials do not have.

    •' Christine 'Tubby' Rea says:

      Why shoot the messenger, Steely? Because you don’t like the message!

      Kelly could be operating a moonshine still in her yard and it wouldn’t change the fact that fiscal accountability is lacking in CCSD.

  20. Anonymous says:

    We’ve all seen to often lately, in politics where asking questions; direct questions strikes a “nerve” with those in power. This should be an a frontage to every citizen. Recently the POTUS called all his seven scandals phony. Was it phony when 4 Countrymen died in a foreign land and we still don’t know what happened there? Recently, locally we were down graded by Moody’s in Cherokee County after you Ms. Marlow asked questions about this audit among other questions long before the in fighting started. Was the downgrade phony? I would like you to continue to work for the tax payer by asking reasonable, meaningful questions.
    I asked some questions the other night about Moody’s report. One of the four that I asked the Superintendent to tell me in writing was when they knew about this. The response was Sept. 6, 2012; I received the answer by mail yesterday; I wonder if there is a coincidence?. I personally am dreadfully concerned about County debt, high millage rates – while we continually open up 50 million dollar schools when expansion at half the price could have saved millions.

    •' Exasperated says:

      The Moody’s downgrade came before Ms. Marlow took office, and was a result of decreased STATE funding. Please do your research before leveling accusations.

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