I wrote a series a few years ago about local governments in Georgia frustrating citizens who were attempting to use the state Open Records Act to obtain public documents.
One way was to impose outlandish charges for the records, and I have seen some hefty bills. Another way was to force citizens to wait months for the documents. I talked to many people around the state who had these obstacles put in their path.
That is what Cherokee schools told an attorney he would have to pay for a request for e-mails and other documents related to the Cherokee Academy Charter School, one of 16 charters left in limbo by the May 16 state Supreme Court ruling.
The school wants to open this fall, and is before the school board tonight.
Now, Mike Klein of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation is reporting that Attorney General Sam Olens said today that his office will open an investigation into how the Cherokee County School District’s open records response.
Cherokee schools Superintendent Frank Petruzielo has warned that approving the application for Cherokee Charter Academy will cost taxpayers and teachers money. To raise $3.4 million for a school of 500, he said, the school board would have to consider either laying off 55 teachers, increasing furlough days, eliminating step raises, hiking taxes or siphoning reserves.
With 995 kids, Cherokee Charter’s proposed enrollment, the school would have an even larger impact, he said. So instead the superintendent will present Friday a staff rewrite of the academy’s community-inspired proposal that keeps its enrollment at 500 and makes the school assume more financial responsibility. The school board will take up the charter school issue at a meeting set for 6 p.m. Friday at the Cherokee High School auditorium at 930 Marietta Highway in Canton.
The rewrite clearly compels the school’s governing board to assume control of hiring, debt and contracting services as well as pay fees for special education services supplied by the Cherokee school system.
I didn’t want the board in a position of not being able to vote for a responsible charter school petition that addresses all of the deficiencies that we have continually pointed out,” Petruzielo said.”If we as a board are going to put our name on a school, it needs to meet our standards,” said Janet Read, a Cherokee school board member who added that many people are calling her voicing concerns about the school.
“I’m trying to consider not only the 995 students in the Cherokee Charter Academy, but the over 38,000 already enrolled in our traditional public schools. This would have a financial impact on our budget,’’ she said.
Some members of the foundation proposing the academy take issue with the rewrite.
“What the superintendent has done has nothing to do with our petition,” said Danny Dukes, a charter school board member. “We have offered time and time again to sit down and have a collaborative run-through of our entire petition and to consider constructive criticism. They have refused to do so.”
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog