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School Board members Smola, Smith to blame for school mess

The school system in Fayette County is stumbling through a governmental version of constant traumatic stress disorder. Exceptionally poor decisions from the Fayette Board of Education have caused significant problems for all of us.

Newly appointed Fayette County Board of Education Chairman Leonard Presberg and recently hired Superintendent Jeff Bearden can see what incompetence at the board level can do to your system and employee morale. They are the latest two fish dropped in the hot frying pan of the Janet Smola and Terri Smith era of poor planning and catastrophic decision-making.

The third vote in that infamous voting block with Smola and Smith, Lee Wright, opted to wisely bail out in the last election cycle.

The April 16 FCBOE meeting was a perfect example of just how bad things are in the system.

A proposal has been prepared to close three schools, all in Fayetteville. The particular schools are all Title I schools (meeting certain federal levels for the free lunch program) and they are close-knit neighborhood schools. It is relatively easy to close those schools because the lower income parents do not put up as much of a fight as you would get in the more affluent areas.

The sad part is we would not have had to close any schools had Smola and Smith not foolishly spent our tax dollars for new schools that were unwarranted. The embarrassment along with the high cost of the new empty schools has now prompted a slash and burn capitation effort on our established schools and districts.

In reality, East Fayette Elementary was closed a while back because there were no students to put in Smola and Smith’s new empty Inman Elementary School.

Please keep in mind that these are the same schools Smola and Smith invested millions of our tax dollars in for building upgrades over the last eight or so years. In essence, we are being forced into trashing valuable facilities and upgrades because a couple of people got carried away spending a train load of our tax dollars.

What happens to those students moved to Rivers Elementary when the land begins to develop around the West Fayetteville Bypass? The answer is they will simply be shipped somewhere else convenient to the FCBOE as they are the expendable Title I kids of Fayette County.

I am going to be very blunt. Both Smola and Smith say they did not know student numbers were falling when they built those new schools and they are lying. Every indicator including census data, county home building numbers, Atlanta Regional Commission data and their own FCBOE data gave a crystal clear depiction of student numbers falling.

Read this quote from the FCBOE Construction Advisory Committee Meeting from Feb. 26, 2007:

“For proposed elementary school #1 (at Inman Road and Hwy. 92), construction documents are being planned by the architect, and advertising for the bid for the school will begin next week. Mr. Darnell reported on many new code changes that are taking effect with new construction and the increase in pricing for new construction. He expects that steel prices will continue to increase, and lumber prices will decrease, AS NEW HOUSING CONSTRUCTION IS DECREASING” (the upper case emphasis is mine).

Long before the FCBOE ever bid out construction or planning of Inman or Rivers schools, they knew for certain they were not going to have the necessary increase in volume of students.

Rivers Elementary was constructed and another high school site purchased nearby as a special interest gift to certain development interests along with the construction of the West Fayetteville Bypass. All you need to do is look at the immense amount of development proposed in the plans for that area.

We the taxpayers have tens of millions of our tax dollars wasted on schools and roads, creating profitability assurances for local developers and land investors along the West Fayetteville Bypass.

Do you remember when the first E-SPLOST had to be passed to save the jobs of parapros and teachers? The referendum passed and they let the parapros, teachers and staff go anyway.

Do you remember how Smola and Smith campaigned for re-election the last time talking about the financial strength of the school system, but then said more tax increases were necessary soon after they were elected?

We went with bond issues to fund school improvements as a way to help our low income senior citizens avoid increased taxes. Smola and Smith turned around and used the E-SPLOST sales taxes to pay the bond debt, totally lying to the seniors who voted in favor of the two bond offerings.

We are doing it to our teachers, nurses, custodians, bus drivers all over again. The FCBOE is cutting their pay and having them pay an even larger portion of their health coverage mainly because they have managed the system so poorly.

Parents, the morale of the faculty and staff is low. You can build all of the empty buildings you want, but we had better be able to maintain and motivate our quality school staffing.

As many teachers expressed on Monday, they are being forced to look at other options. Terri Smith failed to properly disclose over $12 million worth of property and business interests due to a “paperwork error,” a problem our teachers and staff only can only dream of.

Massive school redistricting is coming. Smola’s and Smith’s actions have given us no choice. Of course, most of these decisions will be delayed until after the FCBOE elections. Remember this when you go vote: The last people you want making any decision of importance related to your children, your schools and your community are Janet Smola and Terri Smith.

Steve Brown

Fayette County Commissioner, Post 4


Peachtree City, Ga.

[Brown is a former school council president and PTO president at J.C. Booth Middle School in Peachtree City.]



NUK_1's picture

Now it is time to convince the rest of FC to get rid of Smith and Smola, a problem that was totally ignored the last time they were up for re-election, much like Scott Ballard.

Robert W. Morgan's picture

how much we are in the hole thanks to the 2 liberal transplanted housefraus and their horrible spending decisions.

But, as discussed before, is it appropriate for a sitting county commissioner to denigrate others in office who are likely to be in an upcoming election? Methinks not. He's already taken on Frady, Hearn and Horgan (actively asking for someone to run against him). Also Greg Dunn. He also made a side trip to go after Marllyn Watts (appointed oficial). Now Smith and Smola. It is absolutely true that none of the names mentioned above need to be entrusted with one penny of our tax dollars. It is also true that most voters have already come to that conclusion and we don't need to be led from behind by politician with an axe to grind.

Brown's letters have caused trouble for him and The Citizen before - no doubt Cal reads these things and edits when needed, but all that does is prevent lawsuits. It still leaves the rest of us with the uncomfortable feeling that an elected official has too much time on his hands and is trying to influence an election. I see a parallel to Haddix and his personal attack blogs - also very inappropriate. Obviously the parents of Mr. Brown and Mr. Haddix did not stress what my own parents did - and that is, you meet the same people on your way down as you did on you way up. There was also that Golden Rule thing, but that's way too complicated for our 2 bombthrowers.

Live free or die!

validate their lack of leadership and frankly a lack of class almost weekly on these blogs.

Leaders do more than just pass the buck and whine/complain about most anything.

Mr. Mayor of PTC are you listening?

I would like to see some of his comments about this lack of needing new schools BEFORE the bottom fell out of the Real Estate market. I'm thinking there are not any.

Frankly, if growth had continued, and we hadn't built enough schools, SB would have written almost the same letter, this time blaming those in charge of not doing enough.

He bores me.

ginga1414's picture

Some People have so much money at their disposal that they don't know what to do with it.

Some people have so much money that they lose track of it!

Regardless, it doesn't make pretty good sense to spend millions upon millions of dollars on something we might or might not need in the future.

I cannot fathom anyone saying, "We better build a house with eleven bedrooms because one of these days we might have ten children."

That is exactly what happened.

Rivers Elementary School was part of a huge collaborative plan to develop thousands of "old family" acres into high density hamlets adjacent to Fayette Hospital and the West Fayetteville Bypass.

To be more specific, the West Fayetteville Bypass was built to facilitate developers and to accommodate their "future development."

What is one of the major things needed in high density developments? Schools, of course.

On paper, the plan looked great. In theory, it sounded very plausible.

However, the milk and honey stopped flowing, and here we sit with empty schools, a road to nowhere, and Fayette County offering employees early retirement because it can't make ends meet.

The moral of this story is, "Don't count your chickens before they're hatched."

Don't shoot the messenger!

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