The Reason To Remove Tim Passmore  Becoming Clearer

Just when the citizens of Laurens County thought that things couldn’t possibly get any worse at our School Board, we were proven wrong. It is apparent to many citizens  the true reason  this Board  got rid of Financial Director Tim Passmore. It was made even more evident with decisions made at a called Meeting on September 2nd.

As you may recall Mr. Passmore made headlines a short time back after Board Members voted in a 3-2 decision to transfer him from his Financial Director position to the Assistant Principal position at Southwest Laurens Elementary School. Members of the community rallied behind Mr. Passmore with an outpouring of support via telephone calls, emails, petitions and even involving news media. As in the past, Laurens County Board Members did not heed public outcry and demoted Mr. Passmore.

This decision left many shaking their heads in disbelief while others maintained the decision couldn’t possibly be legal considering Mr. Passmore’s contract had been signed just days before that vote asking him to continue on as Financial Director for LCBOE. Confirmation, at least in the minds of those who have been following this board for any length of time, on why this decision was made was solidified during the Called Meeting last Tuesday.

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Rogue School Board

The Board advertised the called meeting under the guise of making final decisions on repairs needed to the current West Laurens Middle School. According to some Laurens County School Board members they were under the impression that the called meeting was only to discuss a personnel matter (replacing Mr. Passmore).  I use the word guise strongly because the Superintendent himself said during the meeting when questioned about the legality of that according to “legal counsel” they could in fact discuss it. How could you possibly speak to legal counsel about an issue that is going to arise at a called meeting when the issue was not on the Agenda and the motion was supposedly “not planned”?

The meeting began with Mr. DeLoach from DeLoach Architecture giving a report about all the “requirements” the current West Laurens Middle School would have to have to meet to be”within code”. (Let’s not forget that we’re in this dilemma because this same Board voted to deem the WLMS “unsafe due to proximity of Interstate I-I6”. )

A decision that many have stated from the beginning was asinine because GEC (whom this Board paid to conduct a geological survey) had to revise their original report because “the wording was not strong enough” to warrant the school being deemed unsafe. Talk about something coming to bite you back in the rear. Mr. DeLoach continued on with his “assessment” of  how many millions of dollars would have to be spent in order to get the current school where the State felt it was safe again. Many, as well as a board member himself, called into question whether Mr. DeLoach should be allowed to even give such an assessment because his company stands to profit millions if the LCBOE agrees to build 2 new schools on the west side of the county.

Pieces of Puzzle Begin to Fall Into Place at Latest School Board Called Meeting With Decision On Two Boondoggle Schools No One wants

In his assessment he included creating a 2,500 foot Burma along the property near the interstate, replacing all windows and doors on the side nearest the interstate with protection in case of a toxic spill, and converting the current gym into what sounded like a bomb shelter with “layers of protection” against chemical spills or a cloud of “toxic gas”.  Are you kidding me? The Heart of Georgia College and Career Academy, which houses students, just opened with a grant from the State for 3 million dollars that renovated 40% of the old West Laurens High School. I didn’t see them making the school “toxic spill proof”. What’s next, making it asteroid proof as well? If the West Laurens Middle School Campus is NOT safe for students due to proximity to I16 why are we bussing students to the Heart of Georgia College and Career Academy. It was eluded to in a previous session that there weren’t “as many students at risk” at the Career Academy. I’m sorry but who gets to determine the value of Suzy verses Tommy or are our children only a number to some board members?

His report became so unrealistic and so outrageous at one point a Board member said that he felt this was nothing more than “trumped up bull$*!#”. And that same board member asked why we couldn’t have another survey conducted since the previous one had to be altered with “stronger language” to get the school deemed unsafe. Hmmm. That’s a very good question and it leads us to ask, was the vote to deem the school unsafe unethical at least and possibly even illegal.

Things got heated with discussion not only among board members but also with members of the audience. It came to a boiling point when Mr. Parker abruptly stated that he felt they should go back to the original facilities plan (you know, the one that was voted down so technically there was no facilities plan). Mr. Parker then makes a motion to go back to the facilities plan for 2 new middle schools on the west side of the county.

The discussion gets a little messy at that point with Board Members Kenny Payne and Sam Beall, as well as Board Member Elect Brenda Hilton, stating that this should not even be happening and at the least the public should be informed in advance if such a thing was being considered.  Again, all to no avail. Board Member Marcus Clements (who lost to Ms. Hilton and is finishing his last term) and Board Member Bill Rowe quickly voted in favor of Mr. Parkers motion. Not surprising given the fact that they have been the only two board members in favor of this farce to begin with. This was further proven when Mr. Clements lost the election in part because he would not listen to his constituents concerns about building 2 new schools.

Issues of Concern to the Citizens of Laurens County

Several things concern citizens regarding what took place at the called meeting. First and foremost, is it unethical? and secondly was it possibly even illegal?There is no doubt that this decision was unethical. As far as being illegal,  I’d like to bring your attention to several things that have been asked by citizens.

  1. According to Roberts Rules of Order (which this Board is required to adhere to) in order to resend a motion that has already been voted down, without notice, that 2/3 of the voters, (which would be 4 board members), has to be in agreement to even bring such a motion back up before the board. Therefore, according to their own rules of order, a motion should never have even been allowed.
  2. This isn’t the first time that the Board Chairman’s lack of knowledge of Robert’s Rules has been called into question. When the board voted against the facilities plan to build two new schools on the west side of the county and to not accept the funding from the State to do so; isn’t that facilities plan now null and void. After all, the board unanimously agreed with the citizens of Laurens County that we did not need two schools to the tune of 50 million dollars and larger classroom sizes (because it was stated we would NOT hire more teachers). So what facilities plan was there to “re-vote” on?
  3. Can or should such a vote even be considered without informing the citizens of Laurens County? At the Community Forum Meetings (I use the term loosely because they were a joke and in my opinion were not properly handled to begin with) the public overwhelmingly told this board that we did NOT want two new schools on the west side of the county.
  4. Why is it that this Board, who maintains we  MUST get students to a different facility, are trying so hard to not even entertain the possibility of one new middle school.  It has already been proven at one of the Community Forum Meetings that there is in fact enough property to build another school on the property where the current West Laurens Middle School sits. Why is it that certain members are dead set on purchasing two particular parcels of property when we could utilize the property we already have. And one must also question is the board just looking to give away more property to another entity.
  5. Who really benefits from this decision? Teachers? I think not. Their furlough days have just been restored. And let’s not forget the person who fought the hardest for that to happen is NO LONGER employed as Financial Director. How about students? To even insinuate that they will benefit is ludicrous. Board Members have already stated they will NOT be hiring more teachers if 2 new schools are built so larger classroom sizes will become mandatory. And let’s not forget all the instructional time they will lose again when teachers are furloughed to help offset the costs of this endeavor. What about  taxpayers? While some board members say they are certain there will be “NO NEW TAX INCREASES” we all know that politicians use that ploy repeatedly to get what they want. The truth is they can’t guarantee that citizens property taxes/school taxes won’t increase because they simply can’t look into the future to be certain.

Do We Have A “School Fairy”?

Let’s hope we have some kind of fairy waiting in the wind to cover the cost of this extravagant deal that certain board members are “dedicated to seeing through”.  Because if teachers are NOT going to be furloughed, students are NOT going to lose instructional days and citizens are NOT going to see an increase in taxes; just where is the money coming from. Oh, yea I remember now. We’re going to pass a new SPLOST. But wasn’t our board advised NOT to consider 2 new schools until AFTER another SPLOST was guaranteed. Whose to even say that the City of Dublin will even agree to another SPLOST. Are they forgetting that it takes the City’s cooperation and according to at least one board member the City has no plans of recommending another SPLOST any time soon. But for arguments sake let’s just say they agree to put another SPLOST on the ballot. Many citizens are vowing they will NOT vote in favor of another SPLOST. And don’t be misguided; there are several Board’s of Education who have put a SPLOST on recent ballots and the citizens voted a resounding NO because they did not want the extra penny sales tax.  What happens then? Oh, I know….the board members who are serving at that time will get blamed for the catastrophic downfall because let’s be honest…more than one board member says “I won’t be here when it happens”. No, you may not be serving on the board when it happens but rest assured if this asinine plan goes through, the citizens of Laurens County will NEVER forget who left them in financial jeopardy. So let’s hope that school fairy produces 50 million dollars pretty quickly to put our minds at ease but let’s face it, life’s not about fairies and fairy tales and this board can’t sprinkle fairy dust and make this problem go away.

As we continue to watch this debacle unfold many are asking just how far certain board members will go to see what appears to be a personal agenda pushed through. One thing is certain, this board believes it can do “anything” it wants to. The question is, can they?

By Alan Wood

Musings of an unabashed and unapologetic liberal deep in the heart of a Red State. Crusader against obscurantism. Optimistic curmudgeon, snark jockey, lovably opinionated purveyor of wisdom and truth. Multi-lingual world traveler and part-time irreverent philosopher who dabbles in writing, political analysis, and social commentary. Attempting to provide some sanity and clarity to complex issues with a dash of sardonic wit and humor. Thanks for visiting!

3 thoughts on “Reverse Decisions and Hidden Agendas at Laurens School Board”
  1. Great article Stacey. I am working on a new article myself and discovered a few facts in my research that I think the people of Laurens need to be aware of. Districts also receive and rely on state funds for their budgets to a large degree. Take a look at this link by the Georgia Budget and policy institute. http://gbpi.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Schoolhouse-Squeeze-Final-Report-2014.pdf

    Scroll down to Laurens and you can see that it is projected to receive over $500 less per pupil in state funds soon. That means more than $3 million less in state funding which correlates to even more belt tightening. I wonder if your BOE have taken that into account with plans to increase spending to around $50 million. That is an odd thing to do just when you are projected to receive $3 M less per year.

    Another great source with reports and data is the Georgia School Funding association here. http://www.casfg.org/data/ Unless there is a desperate need for new schools because of population growth, or the old schools are falling apart and repairs would be more expensive than new construction, in a budget belt tightening there is really very little reason to build new schools.

    The main priorities to improve education should always be teacher and student focused. Are you paying teachers enough to attract high quality staff and retain them? Do the students have adequate resources in terms of books, computers, club activities, etc…Those are the the things that really matter not a shiny new building.

    New construction nine times out of ten is used as a smoke and mirrors tactic to distract the public from real problems like discipline, low test scores, poor teacher pay, teacher per student ratio, etc…. I think the real questions of import are about the money trail. Who stands to profit from any new construction? Were the surveyors or people associated with the assessment of the current schools in any way affiliated with construction companies that will be bidding on future schools? Do any BOE members have any connections at all, no matter how remote, to any private company that is involved in the push for new schools.

    Open records requests are often your best weapon to get to the truth. http://gwmac.com/issues/watchdog-links-resources/ and scroll down to Georgia sunshine section. I would want to see copies of any email, text message, written memos, etc.. that discuss the new schools from the members that are pushing this. The same applies to any correspondence that mentioned Tim Passamore. If he was demoted for simply doing his job the Board is at risk in a lawsuit. The Ron Collier lawsuit here in Macon was not that dissimilar and he won. Georgia Sunshine laws also apply to even personal email accounts where board business is discussed by the way. If they try and delay or charge you exorbitant fees for any requests you also need to contact the State Attorney General as this is a violation of the Sunshine Laws. They need to act expediently and also charge you fair prices for photocopies.

    I would be sure to read this link in particular. http://www.gfaf.org/resources/sunshine_laws.pdf There are very specific procedures for closed meetings. As a rule, all meetings and correspondence should be considered open and accessible under sunshine laws. It would not surprise me in the least if this wasn’t a great place to start. Were there any violations of open meeting laws?

    1. Thanks for the links Alan. One of the very first open records request I made was for any and all emails regarding the two new middle schools. We have thousands of documents because it seems that each thing we researched led us to something else to call into question. We submitted our findings to the Attorney Generals Office, The Secretary of State, The Governor, The Professional and Standards Commission, The State School Superintendent…but it seems most don’t want to get involved with “local matters”. We’re continuing our research and learning our options. This page is a great tool and also a great forum to reach out to others that may be knowledgeable about these issues.

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