When school boards vote in secret

Cobb County school board members have bought property, approved leases and taken other actions during executive session meetings that are closed to the public.

Georgia law allows elected boards to discuss personnel, legal matters and real estate purchases during executive sessions, but the State Attorney General’s Office has said elected officials are not allowed to vote during closed meetings. The votes must be done during public meetings.

After the AJC brought the issue to the Cobb school board, leaders said they would no longer vote in secret.

Cobb County wasn’t the only school system to vote in secret.

The Gwinnett County school board routinely approves land purchases during executive sessions. They have continued to do so even though several reporters – including Aileen Dodd and myself – have written about it.

Gwinnett school board members and their attorneys have said they disagree with the state attorney general’s interpretation of the open meetings law. Board members have said they must approve the land deals in secret to guarantee the district gets the best price.

Others say voting in secret deprives the public from having a say on how boards spend their money. Parents, teachers and others say they have a right to voice their opinions on important decisions – such as where schools are to be built – before boards vote.

How worried are you about school boards voting in secret?

25 comments Add your comment

The Secret | All Days Long

July 13th, 2009
11:22 am

[...] When school boards vote in secret | Get Schooled By Laura Diamond Cobb County school board members have bought property, approved leases and taken other actions during executive session meetings that are closed to the. Get Schooled – http://blogs.ajc.com/get-schooled-blog/ [...]

Delaine

July 13th, 2009
11:24 am

Remember, Clayton County lost its Accrediation and the Governor Removed 4 Members from the CCBOE for having One(1) Illegal Meeting in which Mark Elgart(SACS) and his Attorney, The Governor’s 2 Liasions, CCBOE Attorney, and Attorney Glen Brock, who is also COBB County BOE Attorney were present and they were not voting. The Clayton County BOE Members were on the News and in the AJC everyday and night for 6 to 8 months about being transparent and attacked by the AJC and Channel 2,5, and 46 of having this Illegal Meeting. What happen to the TV coverage and AJC coverage of COBB Illegal Meetings since 2006? So what actions will SACS(Mark Elgart) and the Governor take on COBB County BOE? They have been having illegal meetings and even went against the Attorney General Thubert Baker. Are we looking at Double Standards or is it a Case of Racial Discrimination and a Violation of the 4 Members of CCBOE Constitutional Rights?

Double Standards

July 13th, 2009
11:30 am

Cobb County and Gwinett Board of Education can continue to have Illegal Meetings with Mark Elgart and the Governor knowing and nothing will be said or done because they are White and Republicans. They can ignore Thubert Baker because he is Black thinking he is White and any Board of Education can do anything but Clayton County.

Dr. John Trotter

July 13th, 2009
11:55 am

NOTE: I posted this (most of it) late last night under the “Cheating” thread, but I had touched upon the inexcusable illegal meetings that go on — apparently with impunity.

To Viva Brasil: You are so right…it is “desculpe” in Portuguese. The languages of Spanish and Portuguese are indeed very similar, with many words exactly the same. Some words like “Obrigado” and “Gracias” (for “Thank you”) are totally different. It seems to me that Portuguese has a blend of “French” influence in it, but “Viva Brasil,” I know that you are a veritable expert on languages, and you can correctl me on this, if you will. Portuguese is a very pretty language, and I have studied it for years, and I joking tell the people of Brazil that “Eu sou um pai grande de portugles” (I am the great father of “portugles”…a blend of ingles and portugues). I do travel to Brazil a lot (three times since January), and the sweet Brasileiros and Brasileiras seem to appreciate anyone’s efforts to speak their language. I like to say this, but it is an exaggeration: “Eu falo portugues muito bem!” Portuguese or English, Viva Brasil, you are right! The cheating is not just confined to the Atlanta Public Schools or to the DeKalb County School System (the systems where it is so prevalent) but in counties like Cobb too! The mean-spirited administrators are in abundance, especially in the Metro Atlanta school systems. Hey, did you see where school board attorney Glenn (or, is it Glen?) Brock has led the Cobb County School Board down the illegal path…illegal school board meetings? I can’t believe that Brock & Clay (the firm) is so ignorant of the school law as to accidently allow the school board to meet illegally. I think it was done with full knowledge. Otherwise, why is Brock & Clay touting itself as such experts on school law? Any dumb-ass attorney knows that these meetings are illegal. But, Glenn Brock was one of the people (along with SACS’s Mark Elgart and I think State Board member James Bostic and perhaps also fellow state board member Brad Bryant) who were illegally meeting behind closed doors with the Clayton County Board of Education a little over a year ago. These guys have to know better, but they apparently only want to cite the law when the law suits their purposes. Tchau. Viva Brasil, voce e gente boa. (This is considered a high compliment in Brazil.) (c) MACE, 2009.

StandardOperatingProcedure

July 13th, 2009
11:58 am

Don’t know about the metro area, but out here in the hinterlands, elected boards (including county commissioners, boards of education, etc) do that sort of thing all the time.

District Attorneys and/or grand juries could probably do something about it, but do they really want to condemn their buddies?

Dr. John Trotter

July 13th, 2009
12:19 pm

I agree with “Double Standards”: I think that Mark Elgart is a complete hypocrite when it comes to educational matters in Georgia. The State has mistakenly (by Statute) given this private SACS organization way too much power, and as a consequence, Pope Mark Elgart apparently wields his bully pulpit toward those whom his friends do not like or oppose (like the case in Clayton County where the most egregious micro-managing school board member, Ericka Davis, called upon her buddy Mark Elgart to bail her out when politically she was losing power to Norrreese Haynes). What Mark Elgart did in the Clayton County Schools was a hatchet job, and he alone (along with his oollaborators Ericka Davis and Rod Johnson) did more to destroy a county than anyone I have seen in my life. Clayton County has become somewhat of a political-socio wasteland because of the actions of Mark Elgart, Ericka Davis, Rod Johnson, and Eldrin Bell, the infamous “Four Horsemen of the Clayton Apocalypse.” It is my understanding that they were meeting in private before the political attacks began (and that is what they were…”political attacks” with Ericka Davis using the Atomic Bomb, her relationship with the willing Mark Elgart). If what happened to Clayton was the “cure,” then the “disease” was much better. No, you won’t hear a peep from the hypocritical Mark Elgart relative to the cheating scandals in Atlanta and DeKalb (he’s apparently afraid of the urban areas…unless he has some collaborators like Ericka Davis and Rod Johnson) or the illegal meetings (heck, these attorneys like Glenn Brock are his buddies). Yes, it’s apparently all about control…and money, especially for law firms like Marietta’s Brock & Clay. (c) MACE, 2009.

Dr. John Trotter

July 13th, 2009
12:37 pm

I agree with “Double Standards”: I think that Mark Elgart is a complete hypocrite when it comes to educational matters in Georgia. The State has mistakenly (by Statute) given this private SACS organization way too much power, and as a consequence, Pope Mark Elgart apparently wields his bully pulpit toward those whom his friends do not like or oppose (like the case in Clayton County where the most egregious micro-managing school board member, Ericka Davis, called upon her buddy Mark Elgart to bail her out when politically she was losing power to Norrreese Haynes). What Mark Elgart did in the Clayton County Schools was a hatchet job, and he alone (along with his oollaborators Ericka Davis and Rod Johnson) did more to destroy a county than anyone I have seen in my life. Clayton County has become somewhat of a political-socio wasteland because of the actions of Mark Elgart, Ericka Davis, Rod Johnson, and Eldrin Bell, the infamous “Four Horsemen of the Clayton Apocalypse.” It is my understanding that they were meeting in private before the political attacks began (and that is what they were…”political attacks” with Ericka Davis using the Atomic Bomb, her relationship with the willing Mark Elgart). If what happened to Clayton was the “cure,” then the “disease” was much better. No, you won’t hear a peep from the hypocritical Mark Elgart relative to the cheating scandals in Atlanta and DeKalb (he’s apparently afraid of the urban areas…unless he has some collaborators like Ericka Davis and Rod Johnson) or the illegal meetings (heck, these attorneys like Glenn Brock are his buddies). Yes, it’s apparently all about control…and money, especially for law firms like Marietta’s Brock & Clay. © MACE, 2009.

Seen it all

July 13th, 2009
12:42 pm

The Marietta Daily Journal, the newspaper of record in Cobb County, has been on the Cobb School System’s behind for months about this and other issues. Not only has the school board been cited now for having secret votes, but the school system (supt. and few key officials) has been accused on several occasions of withholding important information from board members.

But I can guarantee you that Mark Elgart and SACS will not make any trips to Cobb County. In fact, if they need to travel to Tennessee, they will take the side roads just to avoid going through Cobb County.

Dr. John Trotter

July 13th, 2009
12:52 pm

NOTE: This is my third attempt to post this entry. Perhaps I have stepped on too many toes. Good. I meant to do so.

I agree with “Double Standards”: I think that Mark Elgart is a complete hypocrite when it comes to educational matters in Georgia. The State has mistakenly (by Statute) given this private SACS organization way too much power, and as a consequence, Pope Mark Elgart apparently wields his bully pulpit toward those whom his friends do not like or oppose (like the case in Clayton County where the most egregious micro-managing school board member, Ericka Davis, called upon her buddy Mark Elgart to bail her out when politically she was losing power to Norrreese Haynes). What Mark Elgart did in the Clayton County Schools was a hatchet job, and he alone (along with his oollaborators Ericka Davis and Rod Johnson) did more to destroy a county than anyone I have seen in my life. Clayton County has become somewhat of a political-socio wasteland because of the actions of Mark Elgart, Ericka Davis, Rod Johnson, and Eldrin Bell, the infamous “Four Horsemen of the Clayton Apocalypse.” It is my understanding that they were meeting in private before the political attacks began (and that is what they were…”political attacks” with Ericka Davis using the Atomic Bomb, her relationship with the willing Mark Elgart). If what happened to Clayton was the “cure,” then the “disease” was much better. No, you won’t hear a peep from the hypocritical Mark Elgart relative to the cheating scandals in Atlanta and DeKalb (he’s apparently afraid of the urban areas…unless he has some collaborators like Ericka Davis and Rod Johnson) or the illegal meetings (heck, these attorneys like Glenn Brock are his buddies). Yes, it’s apparently all about control…and money, especially for law firms like Marietta’s Brock & Clay. © MACE, 2009.

What Cobb can do

July 13th, 2009
1:28 pm

It would be really nice to see some Cobb citizens file a complaint with SACS, publicize the fact they have done so, and see what Elgart would do.

Downey fails the readers again

July 13th, 2009
2:09 pm

Jay Bookman writes about ethical lapses at the Washington Post, but says nothing about the ethical lapse in his own backyard, even when Sonny Perdue speaking out on it made it front page news.

Downey, who is supposed to be the editorial voice on all things education, chooses not to address the ethical lapse in her own community as well.

For someone like Downey who claims to praise candor in education officials, she sure is silent on the candor showed by the DOE in condemning the response to the cheating scandal.

I guess sometimes being a protector of select people, in order to push a political agenda, is more important than candor.

Dr. John Trotter

July 13th, 2009
2:18 pm

Mark Elgart won’t do anything. When your do-nothing private organiation (SACS) hasn’t yanked “accreditation” in 39 years, then it’s about time to look for one pitiful system to beat up on…Clayton was that system — especially with collaborators like Ericka Davis, Rod Johnson, and Eldrin Bell to play right into his hands.

Why no story on SACS, AJC?

July 13th, 2009
2:42 pm

Does it not strike readers as odd, that it all the dozens of stories the AJC did on Clayton and SACS, the AJC didn’t do a single story on how SACS conducts business?

SACS, a private organization that I imagine makes its money from accrediting school systems, which makes it a private organization that makes its money from taxpayers, and the AJC reporters don’t do a single story on them?

SACS, which does something it hasn’t been willing to do in decades, no matter how poorly school systems have performed, no matter what violations have been committed by the school boards throughout Georgia, and it doesn’t dawn on anybody at the AJC to do a story on just how SACS operates, and what steps they have in place to make sure their actions are ethical?

As a reader, does that not strike you as odd? As a reader, does that give you confidence in the reporting at the AJC?

Larry

July 13th, 2009
2:43 pm

Double Standards: If you are incapable of posting a comment aimed toward readers with an IQ above aardvark saliva, please find another pastime; maybe you should build model ships.

Yes, the GCPS BoE routinely violates the sunshine law, and yes, a few of us know and object to it.

A Gwinnett BoE member accurately, albeit bluntly, explained why this practice is prevalent; the public at large doesn’t care. Despite our disagreement on other issues, he was correct on this one. His position’s accuracy is verifiable on this blog, concerning Gwinnett’s “secret” dealings with IE2 legislation.

Perhaps you didn’t know Alvin was involved in crafting IE2 legislation. Perhaps you didn’t have time to attend the *six* public BoE meetings where this was discussed. But, there is no excuse for neglecting to spend a minute a month to read the GCPS website which contained ALL this information. It’s nothing less than voluntary ignorance.

When enough people object to secret voting, which seems unlikely, it will end. Until then, the public will get what it deserves.

jim d

July 13th, 2009
2:49 pm

OK Laura–you have been able to coax me out, since you are quite aware this is really a sticking point with me.

Napoalvin and crew have been spitting in the face of Mr. Baker on this one for years. Danny Porter refuses to take a stand and every grand jury in Gwinnett is nothing more than yes men when it comes to holding our school system accountable to the LAW.

Why? You might ask.

An excellent question with a miilion answers, everone green and held by the Gwinnett County Chamber of Commerce. With members contributing heavily to re-election campaigns.

All the more reason to eliminate public education as we know it and institute CHOICE schools where the money would follow the student, freeing education of the strangle hold held by a few wannabe politicans.

Dana,

You know what I’m saying is pretty much on track and the people for whom you work aren’t much better, also refusing to intervene when school systems flagerantly disregard the state constitution.

Leave us not forget where we are boys. Here in the South the good ol boy system rules.

jim d

July 13th, 2009
2:52 pm

how was that Larry?? a short but concise rant?

IQ-Profi

July 13th, 2009
3:01 pm

Sometimes it’s really that simple, isn’t it? I feel a little stupid for not thinking of this myself/earlier, though.

catlady

July 13th, 2009
3:33 pm

Off topic, I had to LOL about the article about how Georgia has “taken the first step” in getting its data systems running to be able to track students. Our county one is so messed up it changes data so that our dataperson can run me a list of ESOL kids one day, I can give her needed corrections, she corrects them, and runs it a month later and MORE incorrect (even crazy) stuff pops up. LIke listing kids in ESOL who have been out at least 5 years (who did not show up in the earlier datarun.) Or showing kids who exit speech services as still being sp ed. So don’t put ANY faith in any of this being correct. Secretary Duncan would be crazy to award Georgia any stimulus money based on the SORRY work done so far. It is a colossal joke.

Kelli Daul

July 13th, 2009
7:58 pm

REMEMBER CLAYTON COUNTY SCHOOL BOARD MEMBERS WAS SOME HARD HEADED AFRICAN-AMERICAN SISTAS WHO WAS NOT AFRAID AND WAS NOT IN THE SELL OUT
MODE. I WOULD HAVE RAN AND HID!!!!!

More lost posts

July 13th, 2009
8:10 pm

Why is it the posts that complain about lost posts seem to always be posted? If they can post them, why can’t they post the d@mn lost posts!

Are they trying to lose readership?

IQ Test

July 14th, 2009
9:05 am

Usernext

July 28th, 2009
5:16 pm

I cannot believe this will work!

Mark Prodivers

July 28th, 2009
6:05 pm

This brings me to an idea:…

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