• November 27, 2015

I sense a recall coming

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Managing Editor

Posted: Wednesday, June 26, 2013 12:00 am

Fifteen years ago, Cherokee County schools were in a rough spot — because of a school board member’s actions, the district was put on probation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).

The district didn’t lose accreditation at the time. That board member resigned, the school board brought in a new superintendent and the district worked hard to keep its accreditation.

All has gone pretty well since then. The Cherokee County School District is one of the top districts in the state, it boasts the highest SAT scores in Georgia, and the teachers, staff and administration have done all of this while the state has cut funding and more students have enrolled.

Now, we have a single board member acting on her own, and she has gone as far as filing an official complaint with SACS (now also known as AdvancED). 

With District 1 Board Member Kelly Marlow’s actions, we are traipsing down a road to destruction. State law says school board members are not allowed to act individually. They act as a governing body. They also must follow policies, which include directing questions to the superintendent.

Last week, we published an article, which included information about a June 11 letter to SACS calling for an investigation. Marlow handed out the letter to board members after the June 13 meeting. On June 17, SACS hadn’t received the complaint. Marlow refused to return our messages via e-mail and phone on June 17, asking if she had sent the complaint. Instead, she issued a press release last Tuesday (June 18) night saying she sent the complaint the previous Friday.

The news report also detailed information provided at the June 13 school board meeting: Marlow acted individually as a board member by giving the district’s auditor permission to speak with her political consultant, Robert Trim. According to campaign disclosures (Sept. 30, 2012), Marlow paid Trim about $2,000 for campaign work. She and Trim reportedly have a close relationship — she has asked via e-mail to have her school board stipend checks mailed to the same P.O. Box used for Trim’s consulting firm, according to open record e-mails.

Also in her June 18 press release, Marlow accuses the superintendent of being “belligerent” with a staff member at a board meeting. She alleges that Superintendent Dr. Frank Petruzielo told the assistant superintendent of finance to “sit down and shut up, Candler.” The video shows Petruzielo saying, “Sit down, Candler.”

According to board policy, board members are expected to address the superintendent, not staff, and it is Petruzielo’s job to intervene if he feels employees aren’t being treated appropriately.

That, to me, is Petruzielo’s way of trying to protect the district’s accreditation, by trying not to allow board members to violate policy.

Despite his efforts, Marlow continues to violate policy by giving directives to staff members.

Recently, she directed the director of public information, Barbara Jacoby, to inform her any time someone files an open records request, including  the date, time, name of the person requesting and specific information requested, as well as Jacoby’s justification for releasing the information and the amount charged for the request.

That directive is a veiled threat to anyone filing open records requests — should those seeking public information fear retribution for asking for public records related to Marlow?

According to e-mails obtained by the Ledger-News under the Open Records Act, Marlow has been asked repeatedly to stop giving directives to staff members. 

This behavior is similar to what got the district in trouble more than a decade ago. The Oct. 1, 1998, SACS report said the district has caring and committed employees but their efforts are “negatively affected by some members of the Board of Education, whose behavior and actions blatantly conflict with their policies.”

I don’t understand why Marlow wants to repeat this history, unless it’s to destroy the school district to allow more room for charter schools, which she has adamantly supported. She was quoted in the AJC, “They wouldn’t give us the charter school, so I’m not giving them their SPLOST.” (AJC: Aug. 11, 2011).

But, I would like to believe that Marlow’s true intentions aren’t that ill. I believe her personal intentions — with no swaying from others — are about saving money and being transparent, but her actions don’t show that.

She doesn’t seem to work well with others, including the office of public information for the district, the board chairman or the media. Working well with others partly is about respecting others and abiding by the policies set forth for the job, and, while she routinely uses “please,” her tone is condescending. 

Her e-mails, through which she gives directives to a school employee, speak for themselves. 

Marlow has been reminded numerous times, in writing, to respect the board policies – one of which includes allowing the superintendent to manage the day-to-day operations. 

I’m not worried about Marlow, the school board or the superintendent and what their actions cause themselves, I’m worried about the almost 40,000 students in the Cherokee County School District — mainly those in high school. They have worked hard and are working diligently to earn their diploma. Marlow’s action of filing a complaint with SACS, instead of trying to work well with others, could be putting students in a precarious spot.

What’s done can’t be undone, but I encourage Marlow to follow board policy, learn to work well with her counterparts and the superintendent (and I encourage them to try to work well with her). 

It’s only six months into her term, and already there is way too much discord on the board and with staff. Marlow is putting politics first when she should be thinking of giving the best education to Cherokee schoolchildren.

If she doesn’t make an effort to work with her counterparts for the betterment of the CCSD students, then her 180 days are almost up, and I sense a recall petition coming.

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Welcome to the discussion.


  • melaniej posted at 12:15 pm on Thu, Jun 27, 2013.

    melaniej Posts: 2

    Thank you for this wonderful editorial. Debbie you need to stop threatening people. Is that all you know how to do is threaten and try to intimidate? It's disgusting.

  • Cherokee Parent and Teacher posted at 11:52 pm on Wed, Jun 26, 2013.

    Cherokee Parent and Teacher Posts: 6

    You were not removed from the official CCRP group. You were removed from an individual's page that is for Cherokee County residents who are conservatives. Kelly is seriously misinformed on many things. She is not a good school board rep. Ms. Dooley, how would you feel if it were your grandchildren's education that was under attack here?

  • Ddooley posted at 8:34 pm on Wed, Jun 26, 2013.

    Ddooley Posts: 4

    Please stop the hypocrisy about the fact some members of SCRAM were removed from the Cherokee County Republican Party FaceBook group. The members ran to the press about it and complained. I was removed and other Cherokee County residents were removed from the Cherokee Republican group because of our opposition.

  • Ddooley posted at 8:31 pm on Wed, Jun 26, 2013.

    Ddooley Posts: 4

    I will not back down. Others are about to join the fight as well. Kelly is doing a good job. I don't have skin in the game? I didn't realize that the Cherokee County School system did not receive state or federal tax dollars and just functioned solely on tax dollars in Cherokee County. Your School Board is doing an excellent job just to function on county tax dollars only. Note:Sarcasm.

    Just for the record, I strongly opposed the Charter School Amendment because I did not like the way it was set up. Some SCRAM members are vicous and have posted personal comments about kelly that would get students expelled for.

    There is one other school board member that would be subject to re-call and he would be an easy target...

  • Cherokee Parent and Teacher posted at 6:10 pm on Wed, Jun 26, 2013.

    Cherokee Parent and Teacher Posts: 6

    Ms. Marlow needs to go! I'd like to point out that ddooley is an Atlanta tea party activist who lives in Dacula. She has no skin in this game. It's our children, our schools, our community. She needs to back down.

  • Hey hey hey goodbye posted at 2:49 pm on Wed, Jun 26, 2013.

    Hey hey hey goodbye Posts: 2

    What an excellent article. I am so tired of the anti-public-education crowd trying to tear us down. This is not a 'charter' vs 'traditional public' issue but some keep playing that old broken record. This is about a person who it appears is trying to singlehandedly destroy one of the top school districts in the state because of a personal vendetta against adults she disagrees with. The problem is, it's affecting the education of 39,000 kids whose parents CHOOSE to send them to Cherokee County's outstanding schools. If you don't want to invite the superintendent and other board members to your party, that's fine but stop the elementary school antics, Ms. Marlow. Your slip is showing.

  • pjmarkham posted at 11:45 am on Wed, Jun 26, 2013.

    pjmarkham Posts: 5

    Other school board members can be subject to recall now, if large amounts of their constituents are unpleased with their representation. The act should not be done out of revenge or as a vendetta because another official was recalled.

    If there is public outcry over other Board members then the public would mobilize, as many are doing to oppose Ms. Marlow.

  • Michelle Albers posted at 11:00 am on Wed, Jun 26, 2013.

    Michelle Albers Posts: 1

    Excellent article, Erika! Very informative. Thank you.

    Just so there is no confusion on the issue, there is no "fear-mongering" among members of SCRAM! We are highly concerned citizens with very real things at stake. My #1 concern at this point is I have a child who has attended CCSD schools since 2002. I cannot accept the fact that Ms. Marlow's selfish acts are putting his future at risk.

    I have wracked my brain to try to figure out what Ms. Marlow's motivation is. I have no idea - and don't particularly care at this point. What i care about is protecting one of the highest achieving school districts in the state of Georgia.

    Ddooley, you don't scare me at all with your threats of "Tea party activists, charter school supporters and Stop Common core activists" coming to Kelly's aid. She has 39,000 students from Cherokee County families to answer to.

    Just so you know, I voted for Kelly Marlow in November. I can't tell you how regretful I am about that decision. I am all for transparency at all levels and I take no issue with questioning the status quo. What I take issue with is the mean-spirited, threatening and inflammatory way she has gone about it from the day she was sworn in.

    It's not as simple, as "I don't get my way, so I am going to tell." I don't think Ms. Marlow fully understood the consequences of her actions. I will do all I can to ensure she does now!

  • Ddooley posted at 10:33 am on Wed, Jun 26, 2013.

    Ddooley Posts: 4

    The accusations from the editor that Ms. Marlow's intent is to destroy the CCSD in order to have more charter schools is totally irresponsible.

  • Ddooley posted at 10:31 am on Wed, Jun 26, 2013.

    Ddooley Posts: 4

    Something similiar happened in Cobb County a few years ago when 3 new School Board members came on board and started shaking things up. SACS did not open an official investigation but just kept a watchful eye on the School Board and School system. This was common knowledge. My opinion is that political enemies of Ms. Marlow, in collusion with the Cherokee Tribune, blew the SACS investigation out of proportion and used fear-mongering in order to hurt Ms. Marlow and to silence her. This article appeared in the Marietta Patch in 2011. I have no doubt the reporters and editor of the Cherokee Tribune knew about what happened in Cobb but chose to engage in fear mongering any way.


    If there are attempts to recall Ms. Marlowm then other School Board members will be subject to recall as well. Tea party activists, charter school supporters and Stop Common core activists will come to Kelly's aide.Tea party activists will be more involved with school board races in future elections and will be more organzied.

  • pjmarkham posted at 10:03 am on Wed, Jun 26, 2013.

    pjmarkham Posts: 5

    Thank you for this well-written piece. I don't have issue with Ms. Marlow questioning the way things are done and trying to bring new ideas to the table, but the way she has gone about her business in such an inflammatory way is very dangerous and has serious consequences. I encourage all who are concerned with these issues to join the Facebook group SCRAM! (Smart Citizens Rally Against Marlow).

  • ShannonFreunscht posted at 7:42 am on Wed, Jun 26, 2013.

    ShannonFreunscht Posts: 2

    Thank you! As a parent of a SHS graduate, I have been deeply upset by the actions of Ms. Marlow. I've joined the facebook page SCRAM, i'm planning on attending the next board meeting, and I advise any resident of our county to do the same! This is important on many levels! Our children, our home values, and our community are all being threatened by the actions of Ms. Marlow!



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