Hill Unaware of BOE's Stance
"I would never knowingly do anything that would reflect negatively on the District’s accreditation and I do not believe any of the other members would do so either," Rep. Calvin Hill (R-Canton) said.
Rep. Calvin Hill (R-Canton), one of the co-sponsors of a bill that's become a flashpoint in a fight over local control of the Cherokee school board, said he wasn't aware that the county Board of Education's top legislative priority was to maintain the current governance model.
Emails were exchanged between Hill and Barbara Jacoby, spokeswoman for the Cherokee County School District, after Mark A. Elgart, president and CEO of AdvancEd, sent a letter to Cherokee BOE Chairman Mike Chapman Monday afternoon.
Hill said the following in a response email just 34 minutes after Elgart's letter sent from the district,
"As this process has be ongoing for several month, it is unfortunate that no one had shared any of these concerns with me – or to my knowledge – any of the other delegation members.
I know that I would never knowingly do anything that would reflect negatively on the District’s accreditation and I do not believe any of the other members would do so either. This is where communication is so vital for all parties whenever decisions are to be made.
Thank you for sharing this in such a timely manner."
The proposed House Bill 978, which cleared the Georgia House of Representatives Thursday by a vote of 149-0, would change the way local residents elect members of the Board of Education.
Elgart raised several concerns in his letter such as the election of the BOE chair by registered Cherokee County voters being highly irregular. "Normally the Board chair is elected by members of the Board," he said. "This is a normal and effective practice."
Elgart also warned state officials against enacting "legislation that bypasses or usurps the local control" of school boards.
Jacoby responded to Hill this morning,
"On behalf of the Superintendent, while intending no disrespect, it is difficult to understand how you, or any other member of the Delegation, could say the School Board’s opinion on its governance model has not been clearly and in a timely way communicated.
The School Board last fall at a public meeting unanimously approved its Legislative Program, which was sent to all members of the Delegation. It also was distributed to other local elected officials, community and business leaders, our employees and our parents; posted on the School District’s website; reported on in local media; and a poster-size brochure was displayed in every one of our schools and in our administrative offices and in the School Board auditorium. I’ve attached another copy of the Legislative Program to this email; please note Priority No. 1 is to maintain the current School Board governance model. Had any members of the Delegation asked for a statement as to why this is a priority, the issue of accreditation would have been a part of that statement. In any event, School Board Chairman Mike Chapman recently called you, Sen. Rogers and Rep. Jerguson directly to alert you to potential current and future accreditation issues/problems in this regard.
I agree communication is vital, which is why the Legislative Program was sent to the Delegation prior to the start of the legislative session. Unfortunately, it is clear from not only HB 978, but also from other education bills that erode local control and impose State unfunded mandates supported by the Delegation and, in some cases, introduced and/or co-sponsored by its members, that the Legislative Program expressing the School Board’s concerns has had virtually no impact on the Delegation’s decisions."
Rep. Mark Hamilton (R-Cumming), the lead author of HB 978, also spoke up this morning in a letter to Patch. He cites the processes they went through including the Town Hall meeting in Woodstock, the only County-wide scientific poll of 23,000 Cherokee households and the 13-member “Blue Ribbon” Committee. From there, they drew the maps.
"They are fair, balanced, compact, and equally distribute representation across the County," Hamilton said. "In moving to a district based system of elections we have also honored the American tradition of 'one man, one vote'."
Cherokee Citizens for Kids did not feel the same way. In their response to Elgart's letter, they ask the Cherokee County Legislative Delegation to amend or rescind the HB 978.
"You were only required to redraw districts according to the latest census data, not to change the way officials are elected," Cherokee Citizens for Kids wrote.