Coffee County School Board Members are safe for now - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Coffee County School Board Members are safe for now

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DOUGLAS, GA (WALB) -

Members of the troubled Coffee County school board apparently will keep their seats.

The Coffee school system is on accreditation probation and a new law allows board members of such school systems to be removed by the governor.

But the state board recommended today that they be allowed to remain at the helm.

Still, the governor must approve those recommendations.

Coffee County's school system has been monitored by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools for the last two years.

Stuart Smith regularly attends Coffee County school board meetings and does not like what he sees.

"I've been watching this board for two years and I just don't have confidence in their ability to fix the problem. We have 8,000 children in the system, and that's what's at stake here," says Stuart Smith, Douglas National Bank President/CEO.

His teenage son is one of those students.

"This board is playing with fire, it's playing with the lives of our 8,000 students," says Smith.

The Chamber of Commerce President feels the board impacts more than education.

"This is affecting local industry. We've got people that are being offered promotions to come to work in this community that won't come because they don't want their children in the school system," says Jeff Hennesy, Coffee County Chamber of Commerce President.

The hearing is part of the new law that took effect July 1st permitting the governor to remove school board members from systems that are in danger of losing their accredidation.

Hennesy believes the school board needs a fresh start.

"I don't think that one-on-one, any of these people are bad, and I think they all have the best interest in this community. But unfortunately they can't come to this conclusion and they can not lead us to that result," says Hennesy.

After monitoring the system for two years, S.A.C.'s found one of the board's main problems to be micro-management.

"They are not letting our principals be principals, they are not letting our teachers be teachers, and they are not letting our superintendent be the superintendent," says Hennesy.

Governor Deal has the final say in the board's fate.

Smith feels the board is dysfunctional and hopes the governor decides to remove them.

"We have been waiting for follow-through for two years. We were hopeful that the state board would step forward and help us, because we haven't been able to help ourselves," says Smith.

He says this has created a cloud of fear in the community and hopes everyone will come together to voice their opinions.

We tried speaking with officials at Coffee County's Board of Education, but they did not feel comfortable commenting on the situation.

Governor Deal will review the state Boards recommendation and give his final ruling at a later date.

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