Bad school decisions will continue with Hollowell

I keep hearing about our school system being the envy of Georgia from current BoE members, Janet Smola and Terri Smith, and candidate Scott Hollowell, who is running for a seat on the BoE.

They often talk about how exceptional the Fayette school system is compared to other Georgia schools.

According to an article in the AJC 7/19/12, we are only slightly above average for all metro Atlanta schools, so I can’t see how we could be the envy of Georgia.

In the end-of-courses tests (EOCT) for metro area school districts, we earned a “B” score and were beaten by Forsyth, Cobb and, most surprisingly, Fulton counties.

Why has our school system, which really was once the envy of Georgia, slipped to a second tier position?

Because of extremely bad decisions made by the former school superintendent and former and current BoE members, we now find ourselves being driven to the financial cliff edge by Bearden, Smith, Smola and Presburg who have their collective foot on the pedal and are about to hit the gas and plunge Fayette County’s school system over the edge.

Their bad decisions have been made more severe by the unbelievably poor financial forecasting and terribly flawed budgets prepared by the CFO, Laura Brock.

Schools were built in the middle of nowhere (i.e., Rivers Elementary and Inman Road Elementary), and property was acquired that cannot be used or resold; and four or five schools have to be consolidated or closed.

How did we get to this point and how do we get ourselves out of this mess?

While certainly not the only ones to blame for this situation, Janet Smola and Terri Smith have to take credit for their significant roles in causing this mess.

Please read an article by Steve Brown published in The Citizen 4/24/12 entitled “school board member Smola and Smith to blame for school mess” by clicking on the following link: http://www.thecitizen.com/articles/04-24-2012/school-board-members-smola...

In articles published by The Citizen newspapers over the last two or three years, I have repeatedly pointed out how utterly ridiculous the monthly forecasts have been and what consequences the bad forecasting has had on decisions made about staff pay reductions, furloughs, shortened school calendars but unfortunately the forecasts have not improved!

I also pointed out in an article over two years ago that we had a surplus of schools and said that something had to be done about it but nothing happened and we now find ourselves facing a financial crisis.

Smith, Smola, Bearden and the newcomer, Presburg, have not had the gumption to reform the forecasting and budgetary process or the political will to face up to the unpleasant and highly unpopular decisions to consolidate or close some schools.

The recently approved budget for the fiscal year ending in 2013 shows a very disturbing picture. All but $800k of the $15.3 million “rainy-day” fund balance at the beginning of the fiscal year is to be spent covering operating expenses for the upcoming fiscal year.

And, that would leave us with almost nothing to cover unforeseen expenses that you can bet will occur if the CFO’s horrible record of previous forecasting is any indication of the future.

What has to be done?

None of the current board members, the superintendent or CFO has the financial expertise to solve our financial crises.

Much to their credit, Dr. Bob Todd and Marion Key have spoken out often about the severity of the problem but Smith, Smola and Presburg with the help of the School Superintendent and the CFO have outvoted them every time.

Marion Key spoke out very forcefully at this week’s candidate forum and her comments were obviously directed to one candidate who is seeking a seat on the BoE.

It has been widely reported that this candidate told his supporters he would never vote for closing their neighborhood school. At the forum meeting, he stated that he would never vote to remove 14 assistant principals which the Department of Education refuses to provide any funding for, and in fact, have said they are not required.

Just who is the group this candidate is pandering to? Does he hope to gain some election leverage in exchange for his proverbial 30 pieces of silver?

Simply stated, we need a person on the board who understands finance. Of all of the candidates seeking a seat on the BoE, I believe there is only one person who has the professional and practical experience to fill this role. He is a professor of finance at Georgia Tech and has over 15 years of practical experience in private industry.

Please do your homework and find out who the most qualified candidates are and vote July 31 or sooner.

After all, two-thirds of your property taxes go toward funding the school system and it is YOUR MONEY the BoE will be spending.

Jim Richter
Peachtree City, Ga.

NUK_1
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On this, I completely agree with you Jim

Especially the part about how incompetent the Finance dept of the BOE has been for years. Not that I don't agree 100% with everything else in this letter, but it's been too long overlooked just how poor the Finance Dept is and how that hurts all of the BOE-elected or staff-in trying to run the school system and it's time for people to raise hell about that fact.

Thanks for also driving home the point that while FC schools are good, there are better out there in North Fulton and even Forsyth Co, and we should be striving to reach that, not just content to be above the horrid "state average."