ALBANY, GA (WALB) - The Georgia Civic Awareness Program has been given the okay by the Dougherty County Commission following a controversial 'no-vote' last week.
This, after two women came before the commission this morning, exercising their right to free speech which made reinstating the school civics program a civics lesson in itself.
"We voted them in, and next election, we can vote them out," said Jacquelyn Oliver.
That was the stern warning issued from Oliver and Sherrell Byrd, two concerned citizens who asked commissioners to put politics aside, for the sake of Dougherty County children.
The GCAPS program was halted last week after a majority voted to sideline the program. Today, Commissioners Anthony Jones and Clinton Johnson changed their minds, in a 5-2 vote.
Jones said he simply didn't have all the facts, and regretted his vote. "I didn't know kids had been selected, nor scheduled, for an orientation."
Oliver, who addressed the commission this morning, had never spoken before an elected body before and said she enjoyed the experience.
Oliver's inspiration is her son, Nigel Walton, a junior at Sherwood Christian Academy, who was selected to participate in this year's GCAPS class. "When I spoke to him this morning he said 'Mommy, go out there and get 'em.'"
Byrd, who serves on the GCAPS advisory board and selection committee, expressed her concern. "One of the reasons why I am here, is because we are an example to our kids. We talk to the kids about the importance of being an active voter. That means not just voting, but after you vote, hold your leaders accountable."
Chairman Chris Cohilas said today's vote demonstrates the commission can work collaboratively for the greater good. "I would hope that today's movement is going to be a sign of the positive, affirmative developments we can make in the future."
Commissioner Jones said, "The commission has always worked cohesively and united. These are just a couple of sensitive issues. This is what politics is, you find common ground, and you meet. You see here this morning, we found common ground. So guess what? We move on."
Only Commissioners Harry James and John Hayes voted no to moving the program forward, as outlined by the school system.
James said that he wants to see an independent board, made up of people selected by both the county and the school board, to oversee GCAPS.
James also said he is a supporter of GCAPS, and that having an independent board will offer additional protection and oversight for the student board.
Hayes, who is involved in a million dollar harassment lawsuit involving GCAPS, said during the public meeting that he also wants a board to oversee GCAPS.
The 18 student-participants, representing every public and private high school in the county, can now move forward with attending a state-wide event in Macon next month.