While DTN has provided ongoing coverage to those responsible for filing a complaint to Southern Association of Colleges and Schools regarding what has been coined “appearances of wrongdoing” from the board regarding, for example, the use of county school athletic facilities by outside schools and organizations, Monday’s public participation included comments from an Excel Christian Academy parent.
“I felt like you should hear from Excel because our name has been out there a lot and the first thing I want to do is thank the board and the schools for the use of the [county baseball] facility,” Lehmann Smith said. “… One thing that has been asked is, ‘has Excel put any money into this field?’ Well, I made a list, along with the coach, of all the things we’ve been doing and … it’s close to $20,000 in expenses that Excel has paid toward that ball field.”
Excel has been cited in the SACS complaint and in numerous questions to the board regarding their use of a county ball field and board chairman Davis Nelson previously served as headmaster for Excel. Documentation has been provided to the press regarding the agreement between the school system and Excel and all documentation can be acquired through an open records request made to the county school system.
“I do want to mention another thing, there’s been a lot of talk about taxpayers. I’m a local citizen of Bartow County. I have property in Cartersville and Euharlee and I pay taxes,” Smith said. “From what I understand, that tax money goes toward [the BCBOE budget] but my son does not go to school here.
“But, I’m a taxpayer and we’re all recipients of a ball field that my money actually helps go to, so I appreciate that and I want people to be aware that there are taxpayers in the community who do not have their kids in the Bartow County schools, but the money does go toward [the BCBOE] budget.”
He cited the full-page advertisement in the DTN, paid for by the Taxpayers for an Ethical Bartow County.
“Ethics has to do with a standard of conduct and moral judgment and I want [the school board] to know I think [the school board] made an excellent ethical example by allowing Excel to use that ball field,” Smith said.
The approximate 30 minute public participation portion of the meeting, which featured eight speakers, can be viewed on the system website, www.bartow.k12.ga.us, when it is updated at a later date. Recordings of prior board work sessions and meetings can also be viewed on the website.
“Obviously there are some people who disagree with Excel using the ball field, [the Rome Volleyball Club] coming to coach some of our [female student athletes], I’ve got it, but was there anything ethically wrong – I don’t think so,” Superintendent John Harper said. “But again, people disagree with that and they have a right to.”
Nelson added, “Both entities followed the process and produced all the documents that were supposed to be produced. If you want to accuse people of something then you produce the evidence that they’ve done something wrong, but don’t accuse them and then want them to find your evidence for you … it’s all out there, nobody has hid anything from anybody, everything was done properly.
“There was not a concern before [Harper and I] came on the board of the Calhoun school system using the [Adairsville High School] pool … they’re not even tax payers. At least the kids who participate in the Cass High volleyball and Excel [baseball] were Bartow County residents and taxpayers.”
Harper reiterated Nelson’s statements about the use of local school facilities by students who are the children of taxpayers.
“What I’ve tried to do as superintendent is work with the community, work with the city school system, work with the recreation department, we work with the entire community to provide the best we can provide as a county school system, to support the children in our county,” Harper said. “I know it’s been a closed environment prior to me getting here, but we have an excellent use of the Adairsville swimming pool right now and [nearby swim groups] are paying fees to use that, but prior to that [the pool] was sitting there idle and I don’t think the taxpayers built that pool to have it sitting there idly like it was.
“We are Bartow County and our goal is to serve the kids of Bartow County and I really regret there’s some animosity that Excel used the field, that they feel [Nelson] had some side track in doing that, but as I’ve said in an article, if the previous principal of the school had requested [use of the field], that they had some hardships they had to work on, I’d have worked with them just as well.”