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Bearden goes public with BoE disputes

Dear Citizens,

I want to address the issue of school closures and explain why I made, and still stand behind, my initial recommendation.

In the past four years, [the] Fayette County Public Schools [System] has seen a decrease in local and state revenue of $25 million and a loss of student enrollment of 1,800 students. We have too many schools and lack the financial resources to maintain the status quo.

Last spring, I recommended to the Board of Education the closure of Hood Avenue Primary, Fayette Intermediate, and Fayette Middle School. I also recommended we utilize Rivers Elementary as a K-5 school. I had three primary reasons for my recommendation:

1. Hood Avenue Primary and Fayette Intermediate were built in 1970 and 1974. Fayette Middle was built in 1986. While these buildings have been well maintained, they are not as modern as our newer facilities.

2. The three schools that would close, because of their desirable location, could be repurposed. In fact, with the current level of support for a College and Career Academy, I can envision one of the closed schools either being used for that purpose, or using the LaFayette Educational Center (the old Fayette County High School) for the College and Career Academy and moving our instructional department to one of the vacated buildings. The other closed schools could provide some much needed rental income to our system.

3. Displaced students would be relocated to attend another, more modern school.

After I presented this to the Board of Education, they directed me to come up with the following three additional options:

1. Close Hood Avenue Primary, Fayette Intermediate, Brooks Elementary, and Fayette Middle. Open Rivers as a K-5 school.

2. Close Hood Avenue Primary, Fayette Intermediate, Tyrone Elementary, and Fayette Middle. Open Rivers as a K-5 school.

3. Close Hood Avenue Primary, Fayette Intermediate, Brooks Elementary, Tyrone Elementary, and Fayette Middle. Open Rivers as a K-5 school.

I do not support the closure of either Brooks or Tyrone Elementary. The loss of these two schools would have a detrimental economic impact on those two communities.

Because these are the only two schools in these communities, property values may drop and families looking to move to Fayette would likely choose an alternative community. Some of our children from Brooks would have incredibly long bus rides to get to their nearest school. I do not believe the closure of these two schools is best for kids or for those two communities.

On Monday, August 6th, at the Board of Education meeting, Dr. Bob Todd recommended we add a fifth option. (Citizens may listen to the podcast of the meeting by visiting our website.) This proposal would include the closure of Inman Elementary School, Tyrone Elementary, and Fayette Middle. Todd’s proposal would keep Rivers Elementary open in its current capacity, very much underutilized.

If Inman were to close, because of its remote location, the district would struggle to find opportunities to repurpose this facility. The plan proposed by Todd, and supported by Marion Key, would take our local taxpayers’ investment in facilities and basically leave these two state-of-the-art facilities unattended. I do not and will not support their proposal.

Whether or not Inman, Rivers, and even Bennett’s Mill Middle School should have been constructed is irrelevant at this point in time. They were built. Our community has already invested over $23 million dollars on the construction of Inman and Rivers. They should be utilized to their capacity. My proposal does just that.

I made a recommendation to the Board of Education that I stood behind last spring and I stand behind today. My decisions are always motivated by what I think is best for the community in which I live and the children for whom I serve.

On Thursday, August 30th, we will have our first public hearing on the school closure/redistricting process at 7 p.m. in the Fayette County High School cafeteria. We will meet in small groups to give our citizens a better opportunity to have a voice. You are invited to attend.


Jeffrey B. Bearden, Ed.D

Superintendent of Schools

Fayetteville, Ga.



Bearden: "We have too many schools and lack the financial resources to maintain the status quo." Why then, close 3 schools, open 1 (that equals only 2 schools closed ) and then use one of the remaining 2 schools you closed for offices or a career academy (which takes students out of high schools)? If the school board approves Bearden’s proposal, that will net 1 school closed.

Where is the financial study that states closing any or 1, 2,3,4,or 5 schools will save a certain amount of money? A financial study should also point to which schools need to be closed, if any.

Closing Tyrone and Brooks as you state: “The loss of these two schools would have a detrimental economic impact on those two communities." Where is the data that shows this is will happen? If this is so, don't you think this will happen to downtown Fayetteville, where already, a school has been closed, East Fayette Elementary? With the closed stores and offices all along Hiway 85-N, would you not think closing 3 more schools, all close to downtown Fayetteville, would devastate that community, the 2nd largest community in this county?

There is a study that shows price per student & Brooks is one of the highest. Why keep them open? Close 3 schools, open 1? Net result - 2 closed schools? What is the sense in that? Does not do enough in this financial crisis. Tyrone is a septic nightmare waiting to happen, how much will that cost IF it were to back up? I don't think it's fair closing 3 schools in Fayetteville. I think they were picked because there won't be much of a fight from them. This is being handled so poorly. What a shame.

hutch866's picture

Actually, overall it's 4 schools in Fayetteville, don't forget East Fayetteville Elementary. Looks to me like a systematic attempt to close all the schools in Fayetteville. What's left after this? FCHS and Spring Hill, will Spring Hill go back to being over crowded? Doesn't Tyrone also have Burch Elementary? The whole thing smells to me.

I yam what I yam

suggarfoot's picture

to Tyrone and Brooks don't count! You aren't them...your needs aren't as important as theirs...or Smith, Smola, and Beardon...don't you get it?

Smith, Smola, and Beardon trying to cover up and get Smith re elected. Beardon knows Key and Todd would can him if they got the chance.

He sat on his butt last year and fiddled while Rome burned tyring to help Smith and Smola get re elected. Now here we are going over Niagra and he is offering rain bonnets!

hutch866's picture

I actually have no dog in this fight, my kid is a Sophomore in college this year. But, I watched over the years as the school board caved time after time to the parents, when they should have stood tall and done the right thing. Hey Bearden, maybe you can explain why there is such a difference in enrollment between our high schools. There's no reason they should be in two different classifications due to enrollment.

I yam what I yam

suggarfoot's picture

but like you, sat on the sidelines watching them drag the schools down for their own reasons. I felt it so sad.

Mine is a Junior majoring in girls.

Correction - Key and Todd might say they would "can" Dr. Bearden, but remember they voted in June to extend his contract. They BOTH talk out of BOTH sides of their mouths. Oh, and don't forget Bob Todd voted to build Rivers as well, not just Smith, Smola, and Wright.

NUK_1's picture

It would have been nice to have wiped the slate clean of EVERYONE on the BOE and inject new blood into one of the most vital resources FC has, but that wasn't to be. No one stepped up to face Todd or Key and the issue has been too focused on simply getting rid of Smith and Smola. ALL of them needed to go a few years ago IMO.

Marchman winning and Ballacao looking like a sure-thing are two very positive steps in the right direction. We'll see...maybe we'll be howling later and in disbelief about who we just elected, but it's way past time for new thinking and also people who aren't bordering on corrupt or actually senile. Just don't stop there, FC.

NUK_1's picture

Great move! He's now emboldened enough to seemingly decide he's also an elected politician and also wants to have a public spat with two BOE members over his very PATHETIC non-plan.

The fact is that Bearden along with the BOE should have already came up with a plan a year ago. Bearden wasn't interested in doing that at all and that's why 14mil in reserves are about to be erased. Probably had a LOT to do with the fact that Smola and Smith's seats were up for re-election in a year so he wanted to make sure he didn't have to make any tough recommendations that might have jeopardized their chances. Instead, Smolas wisely hung it up and then Smith switched parties just so she would have maybe a snowball's chance in hell. In the meantime, 14mil+ in reserves are going to get wiped-out, there is still no plan that comes anywhere remotely close to addressing the financial crisis, and Bearden is also dropping hints about wanting to amend the State Constitution to allow a vote on raising the ceiling of 20mils that the system has already been maxed-out on for a while.

This dude is about as bad of a hire as Bernie McMullen or Skip Clark. Totally NOT qualified in the first place and has done nothing to show that they can come anywhere close to rising to the job as necessary. With the shape of the school system financially(that Bearden knew before taking the job), what the BOE was looking for needed to be an eagle. Instead, they hired a pigeon.

Braves Fan's picture

Here's my question:

How can anyone propose a specific school to be closed at this juncture if a thorough cost/benefit anaylsis has yet to be conducted on the matter?

This is the intellectual equivalent of spinning a wheel or throwing darts at a board to determine what schools should be closed.

If closing the gap on a $15M budget deficit is the true object for any school closings, what the School Board should be saying is that <strong> ALL SCHOOLS IN THE COUNTY ARE BEING LOOKED AT EQUALLY </strong> for proposed closings in order to achieve this goal.

Dr. Todd stood in front of the parents and teachers of Inman Elem. on Tues. night and basically talked out of both sides of his mouth losing all credibility with everyone within the 1st ten minutes.

Any specific school names being tossed around at this point is pure political posturing, nothing more.

Political posturing, you bet. Why do you think a former BOE candidate who lost the election on July 31 and his campaign sidekick were at Inman Tuesday night? Why was a present board member's husband at Inman Tuesday night? He was not Ms. Key's husband. Why did Bearden choose these 3 schools without a cost analysis? Maybe rousing up parents in certain districts of the county will help sway an election to his candidate.

suggarfoot's picture

Dirty politics to the end. Indeed, they want to whip the parents into a frinzey so they will vote for Smith.

Smith is responsible for the problem. In fact her judgement the problem,..not... the solution!!!!!

If anyone wants to really salvage what can be salvaged, put all the schools up. See what it cost to run each, how close for the wee ones to go on buses. Then make fair, honest decisions. If it is done that way, out in the open, then some may not like their schools closed, but at least they will know why it was done and that it was fairly done.

Someone mentioned 3 schools in Fayetteville closing. Do you really think it is fair for them to just accept this without seeing the proof?

Smola and Smith are responsible for this.

suggarfoot's picture

and that includes to everyone. First there was Hollowell pandering to Tyrone and Brooks, now Beardon.

How can you possibly decide you are going to close this one and not that one without some study as to what each school cost? Without that, you are showing favoritism. Is that what you want?

If Beardon is certain, and staunch in his standing, as to who he will close...why the hell is he meeting with parents to hear their views? Sounds like his mind is made up without giving everyone a chance.

My thoughts are this affects everyone. It is pompus of Beardon to have already made his mind up.

I think everyone wants to open Rivers (the white elephant) to get this off Smith and Smola who are responsible for this extravant developers tool. Smith's husband developer. That she would gaul to run is disgusting. But she ...hopes.. that by running as a Democrat, it will hand her the Black vote by the NAACP and Pressburg. Not smart, when you don't even attempt to look fair by laying the cards on the table and close schools according to cost.

Dr. Bearden, in his letter states, "My decisions are always motivated by what I think is best for the community in which I live and the children for whom I serve." Nonsense, Bearden looks out for Bearden. Remember, he just asked for (and received by unanimous vote of the school board) a 1.5 year contract extension in June. Yet, he supported drastically cutting employee pay and benefits.

What is best for Fayette County? Look at the enrollment statistics. It is a "no brainer" - at least 5 schools need to be closed. If Bearden were a true leader he would be advocating doing just that. Instead he postponed a decision a year ago when the evidence was clear (thanks to spending thousands of dollars on a demographic study) that enrollment was going to continue to decline in the school system.

Now, he is pandering to Brooks and Tyrone parents because his "best buds" (Presberg, Smith, and Smola) don't want those schools closed. Duh. Those schools, based on low enrollment, should be the first ones closed.

Bearden's solution to the financial crisis? I suspect that he will continue to cut pay and benefits for school employees. He should close schools and eliminate unnecessary positions (there are many - he could start with his cronies at the county office).

I understand that he is very unpopular with employees. I hear that they are afraid to say anything for fear that their jobs will be eliminated or that they will be assigned to a different schools. Meanwhile, he protects the jobs of his supporters.

Why has a redistricing committee been formed? Clearly, Bearden is anything but open-minded. Why have a committee if it is already clear what he wants to do?

I wish Bearden and the board members who voted to extend his contract (all 5 of them) would resign.

Bearden showed in June how much this election meant to him. When he thought it might turn on him, he asked for a contract extension halfway through his present contract. Moreover, all 5 board members voted yes. Why? He had done nothing. He put off closing schools, put off presenting a budget until the last minute, and used all the money in the fund balance to shore up this year's budget.

Why have a committee? Who is on this committee? When was the public notified about any committee forming?

I hope that the new board will show him the door next year. However, we will be stuck with his contract until 2015. This school system might not survive that long.

This guy seems like he's kissing up to Pressberg, Smith and Smola De Ville.

IF he is "canned," it will cost the taxpayers a fortune to buy out his 3 year contract. The board members rarely agree on anything, but they ALL supported hiring him and they ALL voted (in June) to extend his contract. What stupidity!

americanpatriots's picture

I got a copy of Bearden’s contract by filing an open records request. You can do the same.

It WILL NOT cost a fortune to fire Bearden as you think.

After his contract was renewed, I called Dr. Todd and asked him why on earth he and Marion Key voted to extend his contract.

Dr. Todd asked me if I had read his contract and if I understood that the BoE could fire him for cause at anytime without notice and without any separation payment?

Yep! Dr. Todd is right! Get a copy of Bearden’s contract and read it for yourself.

I hope and expect that Bearden will be gone early next year or the Fayette County school system is doomed. His leadership has been a total failure.

Jim Richter

NUK_1's picture

EVERY employment contract has the "for cause" clause in it, and it can be very difficult to prove "cause" unless the employee does something pretty extreme or the employee just really is incompetent and it can be proven without a doubt. Good luck with that

Not coming up with a "good budget" that some on the BOE like is hardly "cause," either. It was asinine to extend his contract and Todd is hardly the person to talk to about employment and contract law either. I don't think he understands what he voted for in extending Bearden's contract.

Do you REALLY have a copy of Bearden's contract? If so, post that public document here. On this site (I think it was about 2 weeks ago), someone asked you to do so, but you NEVER did.

Anyone who knows anything about contracts for superintendents knows firing one is as difficult as firing a college football coach or a college president. It can be done, but if the contract has not expired, it will cost a fortune.

You quote Bob Todd. The same Bob Todd that is well known (as several people on this site have mentioned) for talking out of both sides of his mouth? The same Bob Todd that some have called senile?

Post Bearden's contract. After all, he works for us. Scan and post it today.

I agree that Bearden's administration is a failure. I disagree with your accepting Bob Todd's explanation of why he [Todd] made the ridiculously stupid decision to vote for extending Bearden's contract.

I'll check back to see the contract.

Who do you think is the dumbest of them all? Bearden or one of the board members?

For a long time, I thought Smith and Smola were the dumbest. Later, I thought it was "Silly String Presberg." Then I read Key and Todd's recent letter that was highly critical of Bearden (they wrote it AFTER they voted to extend his contract). Now, I read Bearden's self serving explanation. He has appointed a school closing committee, but he has already decided what he really wants and is publicly stated that he is clearly not open minded about the matter.

Having a tough time deciding who is the dumbest. Looks like a close contest here. What do you think? Who is the dumbest of them all? I think we are surrounded by idiots.

NUK_1's picture

We are surrounded by idiots at the BOE. We can only hope Marchman and Ballacao bring some sanity and common sense into the equation. The rest are pretty hopeless.

Who do you think is the dumbest of them all? Bearden or one of the board members?

For a long time, I thought Smith and Smola were the dumbest. Later, I thought it was "Silly String Presberg." Then I read Key and Todd's recent letter that was highly critical of Bearden (they wrote it AFTER they voted to extend his contract). Now, I read Bearden's self serving explanation. He has appointed a school closing committee, but he has already decided what he really wants and is publicly stating that he is not open minded about the matter.

Having a tough time deciding who is the dumbest. Looks like a close contest here. What do you think? Who is the dumbest of them all? I think we are surrounded by idiots.

PTC Observer's picture

You have one and I will add that you need to give Mr. Haddix a call to see if you can instruct him on how to develop one.

Experiencing a financial crisis is painful but having a rational well thought out plan on how to deal with it is essential to preserving and improving what is left behind. You sir have articulated what appears to be a good plan, let those that would like to challenge it come to the meeting with an equally persuasive argument.

[quote]let those that would like to challenge it come to the meeting with an equally persuasive argument.[/quote]

By sharing persuasive arguments - our students will be well served! Thanks for your contribution.

suggarfoot's picture

"Whether or not Inman, Riverts, and even Bennett's Mill Middle School should have been constructed is irrevelent at this point in time"

That statement is soooo wrong. The $$$$ 23 million in 2 of the schools would go a long way now. It is just this kind of attitude that got us here. Oh well, we spent millions... no big deal. All those million dollar adventures with our money, such as the hundreds of acres of extra land we now own is what brought us here.

We needed decisions made a year ago. The fact that none have been made was a well thought out plan for Smith and Smola to retain their seats on the BOE. They didn't want attention to their blunders and Beardon has played right into their hands.

Because of all the in action, more painfull cuts will have to be made.

americanpatriots's picture

Yes chadf, I really do have a copy of Bearden’s contract. You too can have a copy by simply calling the Board of Education and they will send it to you. Call 770-460-3535. You can then copy and post it wherever you like.

Jim Richter

Accidently posted twice!

I agree with the person that posted that all schools should be considered. Of course there will be some that obviously can't be closed. What costs will increase because of a closing. In most cases it will be transportation. For example if Brooks Elem is closed then the buses will have to take the kids primarily to Sara Harp, some maybe to Inman, some maybe to Peeples. How much will that cut into the savings. Also how much do you save? I'm guessing if you close Brooks (smallest elem school in system) you will save the least!

I digress. With so many colleges having secondary campuses why doesn't the BOE search out colleges that want to expand and lease/sell them Rivers! Give em a sweetheart deal on financing or a lease! Empty buildings may save money but if you can sell or lease them we'll be even better off.

Lots of talk about "can the building be repurposed?" How about can the building be sold? BOE should be pro active on this!

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