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Gov. Deal, BoE needs your help

An open letter to Gov. Nathan Deal: I bet you remember when more than one family had a “crazy uncle.”

You know what I’m talking about: Ol’ Uncle Earl’s daddy bought him the first Mustang on the showroom floor and six months later crazy Earl ran off to Panama City with a 17-year-old car hop.

Well, I hate to tell you, but some crazy uncles have taken over the Fayette County School Board and we need your help.

After only a few months in office, this bunch voted (member Mary Kay Bacallao voted no) to close decades-old community schools in Tyrone and Brooks, Ga. These were fine, God-fearing schools where the children gave choir recitals and the pledge of alliance to the flag opened most events.

These facilities were the heart and soul of these little towns and had been here for decades. For the record, Tyrone Elementary had been in operation for 82 years.

I’m new to Fayette County. But this week I drove down to Brooks, about 15 miles from my home in Tyrone, to see for myself the school they shut down this year. You turn on Price Road, and there it sits, a good-looking school, but empty, dead as far as the school board is concerned.

This facility will cost, in today’s “Obama dollars,” probably $6-8 million to replace. These facilities, may I remind the wayward school board, were bought and paid for by your local taxpayers.

The same for the Tyrone school sitting across from the Town Hall and the cemetery where some Confederate dead are among those asleep.

The school board cited the need for “cost cutting” in shutting down these good schools. This is a joke with their other recent actions and track record.

A few days ago, the Atlanta paper posted Fayette, with 8.6 administrators per 1,000 students, as neck and neck with Clayton County and second only to Atlanta in this category. They can close our community schools, but I haven’t heard a peep about the board cutting its in-house expenses.

The board then voted to spend $1.6 million for “Common Core” math books.

And this is a board whose new members are allegedly Tea Party members.

The real Tea Party folks, as you know, don’t like Common Core, and rightly so. It’s a pie-in-the-sky brand name that folks know little if anything about. I saw where the Common Core statewide testing thing is dead on arrival in Georgia. You and your state school superintendent John Barge made a U-turn recently and dropped that deal, citing a cost of $27 million.

Moreover, a news report said Cobb County is looking at buying mostly online and digital versions of new math books, saving $4.6 million in the process. It was pointed out that Cherokee County hasn’t had math books for some time and their kids are doing just fine. Cherokee County, by the way, has only 4.8 administrators per 1,000 students.

And governor, I can’t make this up. Our local paper just reported that more than half of the school board was “surprised” to learn that one of the other schools it closed will be used to relocate three of its school system programs.

It gets real funny. Deputy Superintendent Sam Sweat said the agreement to use the now closed school came from the interim superintendent and this guy’s “administrative cabinet.”

Oh, the interim guy is now history and the board has a new superintendent. If you are confused, again see the numbers above on all the administrators Fayette has on board.

The same story in The Citizen noted that the former superintendent had said there was a possible buyer for the Board’s central office. He said if that happened, the board might want to relocate to the closed Fayette Middle School. That superintendent was quickly run off by the current board.

There’s more, but I’m asking you to put some gas in John Barge’s state car and have him come down here for a camp meeting with the board about keeping these schools open.

The county commission never raised its hand to help the schools and its chairman called the school closing by the board “heroic.” That tells me he’s a nut case as well. The board itself is acting like they are taking malfeasance in pill form.

Governor, I know you are busy with school boards in Atlanta and DeKalb County, but we need help down the road in Fayette. Help us out and maybe the voters will double your salary next year, putting you close to the pay check the CEO gets over at the Atlanta Housing Authority.

James Hightower
Tyrone, Ga.



Tell us, with our budget this year, how could we have saved the two community elementary schools? I'm waiting. Ms. Bacallao didn't have the answer. She voted no because she promised voters she would. She didn't have any reasoning other than that. Since her plan to save the schools didn't work, her vote was a waste.

Gov. Deal is part of the problem. Every year schools get less and less from the state. Yet the state gives out millions to lure movie productions to our state. Does that tell you where priorities lie.

Fayette County schools are one of the best in the state. Yet our state still lags behind most others as a whole. Since our standard core grades came in pretty low compared to other states, we have no standing as positive trend setters. Our kids compete in college against kids from all over the world. If everyone else is grading better before college, what can we expect of our students when they can't compete with the out of state kids who know more. I'm not saying common core is the answer, but we can't complain when colleges discount GA students because they can't keep up.

I will agree about the closed middle school. Nothing should be going on there. Closed is closed and pointing fingers at others is worthless. The BOE just needs to find space at a school still be utilized. We all know space is available.

County commission has no swag when it comes to the BOE. In fact, I applaud Mr. Brown in his support of the BoE.

I am glad you are involved. Please send me your plan to reopen these schools.

[Quote]Our kids compete in college against kids from all over the world. If everyone else is grading better before college, what can we expect of our students when they can't compete with the out of state kids who know more. I'm not saying common core is the answer, but we can't complain when colleges discount GA students because they can't keep up.[/quote]

One of the attractions to Fayette County is our school system. It has been stated that Common Core is below the standard of the curriculum offered to Fayette County students. IF this is true, teachers can easily make sure all of our students achieve the goals of common core and expose our students to the additional concepts that will bring FC students on par with the above average achievement throughout our country. We have students from FC who compete favorably with students from other states, but being the 'best' in Georgia is not a stellar recommendation in 2013. For our teachers not to have the guidelines and support of Common Core is unwise. FC needs to rank among the top in the nation.

The Fayette County math textbooks will be purchased with the ESPLOST that was passed last November. The ESPOST passed with a rather large margin especially after the FCBOE clearly identified how those funds would be spent.

The ESPOST is an important financial supplement to the operations of Fayette County schools and school systems around the State who have them. It is projected to generate $125 million over the next 5 years and the current 5 year ESPLOST (ending this year) generated close to, if not over, $95 million.

The ESPOST funds can only be used for such things as:

1-New textoobks - which by the way were sorely needed in math for Fayette since the Georgia Math fiasco and the fact that schools were given approval to modify Georgia Math in an attempt to make improvements.


3-Bus purchase and maintenance

4-School maintenance including new roofs, HVAC, etc.

Last year at the request of many citizens the FCBOE provided in greater detail how ESPLOST funds would be spent, ensuring that it would be strictly focused on education via books, technology and capital items involving building. FCBOE went above and beyond providing such a detailed report.

ESPLOSTs are regulated by the State and those regulations outline what the funds can be spent on so where ESPLOST funds can pay for textbooks it does not allow funds to pay teacher and staff salaries necessary to operate smaller schools you refer to. The decision to close schools was strictly linked to the general budget which is funded in part by our real estate taxes and the State.

Comparing the purchase of textbooks to school closings is like comparing "apples to oranges" - You can't make your comparison based on how textbooks are funded and salaries are funded

To save those schools, your letter should be readdressed to Mr.Deal asking why the State continues to cut funding, or to change the ESPLOST funding requirements, not blaming the FCBOE who had the courage to balance the budget.

Our FCBOE members have made tough but great decisions and we should be proud of their efforts. The vote for new textbooks was also a wise FCBOE decision and exactly why we have the ESPLOST.

FCBOE deserves our respect, they are not Uncle Earls in any way, shape or form.

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