We can give you the information, says Cherokee school board — but it will cost you $324,608.52

Things are getting testy between charter school advocates and the Cherokee County Board of Education.

Ever since the Georgia Supreme Court put the state out of the charter school business, a dozen and more charter schools have been forced to go back to local school systems to ask that they be given the financial wherewithal to survive.

Among them is the Cherokee Charter Academy. Suspicious that the school board hasn’t been playing fair with the request, the Georgia Charter Schools Association dropped an open records request on the Cherokee school board – demanding what to know what it’s been saying about the request in emails and other communications.

You can read the request here. The response from Barbara Jacoby, director of public information for the school board, closed with this:

The administrative costs for available documents are estimated at $286,600.27, for 6,185 hours of work by seven different employees. This total includes a manual search of emails. If CCSD staff were to instead use an automated keyword search of six keywords, the overall cost would be reduced by $219,093.

The copying costs for available documents are estimated at $38,008.25 for 152,033 pages at $.25 cents per page….

Once my office has received a check for $324,608.52 made payable to the Cherokee County School District, we will begin filling your request. We estimate that it will take approximately 463 days to fulfill this request.

That would be Sept. 29, 2012. Which is a Saturday, so make that 465 days.

Mike Klein over at Georgia Public Policy Foundation just added a touch of seriousness to the mix:

Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens said Friday that his office will open an investigation into how the Cherokee County School District responded to a citizen’s request for information.

Updated at 5:35 p.m.: Ladies and gentlemen, the discourse below has been pretty rough. So with your moderator headed home, I think we’ll shut down commenting. Have a good weekend.

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

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64 comments Add your comment

Georgia Voter

June 24th, 2011
2:10 pm

I don’t think Cherokee Charter Academy meets any existing need in Cherokee, so I am against it. I’ve read the proposals over the years, and there are many issues that have not been adressed.

However, this communication from CCSD seems tacky and spiteful.

Govt Worker

June 24th, 2011
2:15 pm

The CCA needs to send a check from Nigeria for $350k and ask the School Board to send them the $25k difference.

Scot

June 24th, 2011
2:20 pm

Gee, GV, you sound just like Dr. P up here in Cherokee. He said there was no demand for a charter in Cherokee.

We had two School Board members loose their seats over this issue last November. So yeah, there is no “need” for it.

The Charter had to expand its enrollment number by 200 students, but there is no “need” for it.

Even though the roster was expanded by 200, they still had to have a lottery where about 1000 kids were left out…but there is no “need” for it.

Fact is, the parents of Cherokee County are in full support of this, and it is time we make Charter schools a reality here.

nick

June 24th, 2011
2:22 pm

As a resident and taxpayer of Cherokee County, I am embarrassed at this representation. The fear of competition has allowed this Board to show their true colors.

Susan

June 24th, 2011
2:31 pm

As a taxpayer in Cherokee County, I do not wish to absorb the costs involved in providing the information requested by the charter school. If they want the information, they should pay for it.

And the parents are not in full support of this “academy.” There is a tremendous amount of opposition from parents to taking tax dollars out of the school budget to support a for-profit school based in Florida. I am one of those parents.

Scot

June 24th, 2011
2:33 pm

Susan, consider yourself an exception.

Centrist

June 24th, 2011
2:35 pm

Obstruction – our government “at work”.

Another Government Employe

June 24th, 2011
2:42 pm

There are problems on both sides of this request. It looks like the Academy is on a fishing expidition for future litigation. Likewise, the BOE wants the request to go away.

I think everyone needs to take a breather.

Cherokee Mom

June 24th, 2011
2:42 pm

I am also a taxpayer in Cherokee County and I want choice. This letter is totally disrespectful to another taxpayer in Cherokee County. If this is how Cherokee County School District wishes to represent itself, then I too am embarrassed. Many campaigns are run on fear, and that is what this has turned into. Pro Charter does not mean anti public schools. Please DO NOT believe everything you read. Sam Olens needs to investigate why a citizen was responded to in such a negative manner. This is not an “us vs. them” competition, it is what is best for the children of Cherokee County. Barbara Jacoby and whomever she represents owes someone an apology,

Independent

June 24th, 2011
2:44 pm

I am confused about how the charter schools want to operate. Do they ask that the school board support them with the monies that would have been spent on those students going to the charter school, or are they asking for the “average” cost of schooling a child (including special education students)? The “average” is highly skewed, with the amount for a normal student probably being in the $3000/year range, while a special ed. student cost may be $20,000 per year. Unless the charter school also takes special ed. students, then they should recieve the lesser amount per student.

Hypocrite Hunter

June 24th, 2011
2:47 pm

The Cherokee County school board has a budget and staff roughly four times the size of the entire county government. An entrenched bureaucracy is always afraid of any challenge. In this case it relies on its large employee base to use the private email accounts they have developed as teachers to present one half of the story to an easily frightened electorate rather than accept a pretty common idea that innovation is a tide that raises all ships. Interestingly, using their own numbers, if you take the school system’s total budget, and divide it by the total number of kids, it would be cheaper to close the system down and bus every single one to better performing private schools like Walker or Cherokee Christian…just sayin’

Wondering

June 24th, 2011
2:48 pm

What experimental and unique methods are being tested at the CCA? There has to be something if they are seeking charter school status. Or, do they just want to avoid state and local school board control?

If the county has voted off county school board members that voted against CCA, then why did they lose again?

The AG’s office will pay for their investigation but who will pay for the school system’s time wasted during the investigation? Will that be added to the CCA charges? No, it will be simply taking money away from the mission of educating the students in Cherokee County.

Another View

June 24th, 2011
2:49 pm

Susan, as a taxpayer you DON’T absorb the costs. Tax money follows the student. It doesn’t automatically go to the district to dole out to charter schools. Imagine giving your child lunch money to go to Burger King, but the government says, “Sorry- your only choice is McDonalds.” By choosing Burger King, you haven’t taken any money away from McDonalds, you simply force them to get better to make you want to go to them instead. The school district is obviously afraid of competition. They must have something of which to be afraid.

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Augusta

June 24th, 2011
2:50 pm

Thank you, AG Olens.

Doug

June 24th, 2011
2:51 pm

Barbara Jacoby is not deserving of a position of public trust. She needs to be fired immediately, and the member of the board who support her position need to be replaced at the next election. They have forgotten that they work for the taxpayers, not for the public schools.

Cherokee Taxpayer

June 24th, 2011
2:51 pm

As a Cherokee taxpayer I oppose using tax dollars for any private schools. However as hostile as our school board is the taxpayers and parents I can understand the desire for alternatives. The best answer is to boot the current school board and send Dr. P packing. I am proud to say that I voted for Sam Olens and hope he can bring some adult supervision to this nasty little game.

Never Trust the CCSD

June 24th, 2011
2:52 pm

The CCSD district employed a known drunk driver with multiple convictions as their spokesperson for 12 years. Only when he was arrested for the fourth time driving drunk actually wearing the sheriff’s pants, did he lose his spokesperson position.

A rational person should consider what the former school spokesperson has on Dr. P. prior to believing any statements from the new CCSD spokesperson. Besides, the former school spokesperson still works for the CCSD. I wonder if Dr. P and him still visit the same kind of gentlemen’s clube during work hours?

BTW, someone should really look into the Enron accounting in regards to the graduation rates in Cherokee County.

The CCSD is corrupt, wake up.

Mini P

June 24th, 2011
2:53 pm

Typical response from the always arrogant Dr. P. This from a school system that did not fire the former Dr. P mouthpiece after his 4th DUI. The same Dr. P who hired the sheriff’s wife at a cost of $37 per hour while at the same time laying off para-pros.

If a single person on the rubber stamp school board had even the slightest bit of courage, he or she would call for the ouster of Dr. P immediately with a full investigation into his spending habits to follow. But that won’t happen because none of the elected school board members will dare challenge the guy making twice as much as Georgia’s governor.

Doug

June 24th, 2011
2:54 pm

Wondering, you have SO missed the whole point of the story. That is no way for someone who works for and is paid by taxpayers to talk to a taxpayer. But perhaps Ms. Jacoby needs to be responsible for the School Board’s costs, seeing as she wrote the damn letter.

Rod Johnson

June 24th, 2011
2:58 pm

That’s almost 2 years of Dr. P’s bloated gov’t salary!

Lora

June 24th, 2011
3:01 pm

$324,609 to produce documentation?! Really. No wonder our government deficit is so high. . . . . Boy, that’s one of the largest costs I have ever seen for research and producement of docuementation; if it costs this much to do something that would take a private company possibly 36 man hours and cost far far less . . . . maybe it’s time to overhaul the local government system. I am angered my taxes keep going up for overblown governmental services priced such as this!

Mini P

June 24th, 2011
3:07 pm

Rod, you might want to check again because Frankie’s comp pkg is close to or exceeds $300,000 annually including all benefits (you won’t believe what he gets). File a FOIA, probably only cost about $100,000 to see his employment contract.

double

June 24th, 2011
3:11 pm

Who is serving whom.Get rid of all these elected.Once in office they forget they are taxpayer servants.This is problem with all country,and this county is prime example.

Rod Johnson

June 24th, 2011
3:13 pm

Mini P – You owe me a keyboard for that. ;)

Sad but true though: Bloviated Govt workers abound everywhere. There’s so much fear and paranoia that these people’s racket is being exposed for what it is.

CharterStarter

June 24th, 2011
3:13 pm

@ Another View: Oh, Cherokee BOE is afraid, I guarantee you. Hence this remarkable letter that a public servant had the temerity to write and sign.

One thing I’d like to know, Jim. If it will take “6,185 hours of work by seven different employees” to search for the emails, how does Cherokee ALREADY KNOW the result will be “152,033 pages” (estimated)? That’s a pretty specific estimate! Maybe an enterprising reporter can sniff this out?…

another cherokee taxpayer

June 24th, 2011
3:15 pm

I have no desire to pay taxes for a charter school with public money.If parents want a charter school they can pay for it out of their pocket not mine.You can get an excellent education in our county schools.

Marie

June 24th, 2011
3:18 pm

Lora et al,
Do you think they should take time away for doing work on bahalf of the children to fulfill this demand for documents? In your private company sinario, is that someone paid a living wage or an undocumented worker that can be taken advantage of? Any request for documents from any agency has a cost – I’m not saying what they have quoted is fair or correct, but check out how much it is to request copies of documents from anywhere. It’s actully our money. Our tax money. I dont’ care what this Florida school wants but they should not be allowed to cost Georgia tax payers a dime! So we now spend more money on the Attorney General’s office for a request that diverts public funds to private school with no accountability….that makes sense….

TSteaks

June 24th, 2011
3:19 pm

You taxpayers who want competition should ask the charter people why the county will have to buy the buildings for their schools and give them to a private business, then when the school closes, the private business will own the building not the county. That’s your tax dollars. If you want competition, send your kid to private school.

Never Trust the CCSD

June 24th, 2011
3:20 pm

The current school spokesperson and former Cherokee Tribune employee, Barbara Jacoby, failed to report on McGowan’s prior three DUIs and never investigated the fudging of the “graduation rate” numbers.

No wonder she procured the job as the new school spokesperson.

FOR SALE!

June 24th, 2011
3:22 pm

Over 2,000 applied to Cherokee Charter… THAT’S CALLED A NEED. Our TAX PAYING FAMILY included! I’m still begging Cherokee Charter since we are on the waiting list! I’ve had to deal with the Cherokee County schools and administrators have THE EXACT SAME attitude as the board! PRIVATIZE EDUCATION!

Hypocrite Hunter

June 24th, 2011
3:25 pm

1300 Cherokee County parents wanted their kids out of a system that has serious systemic problems. If they went to a private school, the system wouldn’t get that money anyway…there is zero loss to the system to allow the Charter and the local system still has input into the process. Marie, my company can respond to this question in a matter of minutes…and I don’t have the benefit of a completely wasted $5m SPLOST technology budget. Wondering, the last two elections were dominated by proponents of Charter schools..however, there still are several board members to replace. Characterizing this as a Florida for profit vs. Georgia tax issue is either intentionally misrepresenting the facts, or the product of another public school education.

surprised

June 24th, 2011
3:26 pm

Please tell me the letter from Barbara Jacoby was her poke at comical relief? No matter where you stand on this issue, that response is absurd.

HenryGrady

June 24th, 2011
3:26 pm

I’m sure Barbara Jacoby is a nice person. But she should be fired. And if she isn’t, the residents of Cherokee Co. should make sure her bosses are fired in the next election. That is the height of arrogance for a worker who is being paid by taxpayers to respond that way to a group of taxpayers.

And who the heck is paying $46 a hour for administrative workers to do email searches and data entry? And .25 per copy? Holy crap. That is redunkulous. No wonder school boards are so bloated.

And can someone answer why school board members are allowed to use personal email addresses? Isn’t that a likely violation of the law with regards to the maintenance of government records?

Jeepers. Someone needs to be run out on a rail

Hypocrite Hunter

June 24th, 2011
3:26 pm

Tsteaks, that’s a total misrepresentation. Check your facts.

Another View

June 24th, 2011
3:28 pm

Tax money is NOT spent to build charter schools. A bond is issued to raise money for the building. Unlike traditional public schools that received capital money to build the building, charter schools must fund their own facilities. Tax money is used to educate the child. Also – charter schools are NOT private schools. They are public schools open to all students in a given area.

Aquagirl

June 24th, 2011
3:28 pm

Only when he was arrested for the fourth time driving drunk actually wearing the sheriff’s pants

Now that’s priceless.

Never Trust the CCSD

June 24th, 2011
3:28 pm

Thie charter school issue is about control.

Dr. P. couldn’t threaten teachers and administrators at charter schools the way he does teachers and administrators under the control of the CCSD.

Never Trust the CCSD

June 24th, 2011
3:30 pm

How much CCSD money was used covering Mike McGowan under the School District Insurance Policy considering his drunk driving record?

Hypocrite Hunter

June 24th, 2011
3:31 pm

Tsteaks…direct copy from the most recent distributions (and by the way, I have a kid in the public school who will stay there, I pay local taxes and won’t be affected if this passes or fails…how about you?)

“Will the building be owned by Charter Schools USA? If so, what happens if the school closes?
The school is not owned in any part by Charter Schools USA. In light of the Supreme Court decision,
there is currently no ownership or lease agreement active on the building. However, if the school is
approved, Red Apple Development, an entity completely independent of Charter Schools USA, but
owned by the same owner, will purchase or lease the building, then will lease it back to the Georgia
Charter Education Foundation. The GCEF has complete control over the building. If they decide to fire CSUSA at some point in the future, they will continue their lease agreement with Red Apple
Development. Red Apple will handle the bond financing to purchase the school.”

Mini P

June 24th, 2011
3:32 pm

yuzeyurbrane

June 24th, 2011
3:41 pm

Now the legal way to stiff info seekers is to make it a crime to give them any like the legis. did in its recent amend. to tax credits for private schools tuition bill. Looks like Repubs like Open Records only for them. What would Sam Olens do if it were Democrats seeking records?

DJ30

June 24th, 2011
3:43 pm

So, these charter school advocates want taxpayer money to be used by buy a school building for a private “for profit” company? Then they get infuriated when this arrangement is simply questioned?

Wow.

Cherokee Parent & Voter

June 24th, 2011
3:51 pm

Ok, I work for a government agency and i have to provide records through the open records act. It is sort of odd that this request was for such a broad spectrum of information. Not to mention it ending up being sent to the AJC. Until you are the one pulling this sort of info you have no idea the time involved and the resources needed. This was from an attorney who obviously knew what would be involved in fulfilling the request. He waited on the response he knew was coming then called in the press. I am a parent of two Cherokee children, one in college the other in high school. This charter school situation doesn’t effect me other than my tax dollars being used to basically fund a private school. I have a major issue with that. I see nothing wrong with the response she sent.

TheCapn

June 24th, 2011
3:54 pm

I’ve seen the average BofE worker during a workday. First, they apparently have PLENTY of free time on their hands. Second, compiling paperwork and reporting it to the public is PART of the government’s duty. Third, maybe GCSA should offer to go through the emails for them, and let GCSA spend money on looking all this up. I’m sure they won’t mind.

Chris

June 24th, 2011
3:56 pm

Thats about one year of Dr P’s salary, Suspend him for 1 year ., it would be the best thing that ever happened

Mercutio

June 24th, 2011
3:59 pm

A curse upon both your houses!

Allen

June 24th, 2011
4:06 pm

This response from CCSD is completely inappropriate and cuts against the notion of transparency in democratic government

But there’s no way around the fact that diverting funds harms public schools. I sympathize with parents wanting the best for their kids but am unsettled by their ability to rationalize lavishing resources on a chosen few at the expense of the many.

Another Cynic

June 24th, 2011
4:14 pm

I can appreciate the desire of some parents who want to have more options for their child. That being said, public funds should NOT be used to assist any of these charter schools in anyway. If you don’t like the local public school…then move or save up money to send your kid to a private school. Personally, I’ve made a decision NOT to have a child until I am able to move out of my current taxpayer subsidized school district or until I can fund a private school education.

If people feel that public funds should be allowed to assist these schools (and possibly private schools in the future with vouchers) then let me know when I can “opt out” of paying school taxes to educate someone else’s kid ESPECIALLY when I don’t have one of my own… Let’s see how that works out!

Dave

June 24th, 2011
4:24 pm

This is a strategy widely used by governments trying to discourage citizens from seeking information. Not all counties operate this way. As a prior activist, I can tell you Cobb and Gwinnett generally honor the records law. However, DeKalb County and the City of Atlanta, play all sorts of games to stall information from getting out, wasting hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions, on needless litigation. CEO Vernon Jones, and Mayor Bill Campbell were notorious for this abuse.

Another View

June 24th, 2011
4:26 pm

Charter schools ARE public schools. No funds are diverted. If a child is home schooled or goes to a private school, no money is issued to the District for that student. If a child goes to a charter school, that money is not issued to the District. If the District does a good enough job, it will keep its students and the money will go to them. This is competition and the District seems hellbent on making it seem like they are struggling and the big bad charter school is going to take away their funds. The fact is that the students are struggling and need a better choice. Not all traditional public schools are bad, but if there is a better way for a public school to be run, isn’t that a better use of taxpayer dollars?