Recent vote against recording school board meetings was a setback for open government

News

School Board Chairwoman Missy Jarrard

CLEVELAND, Ga. – The White County Board of Education’s 3-2 vote against making a video recording of its meetings and placing it on the school system website, was a setback for open government. It will not have the intended consequences and could easily be reversed in 2019, depending on the outcome of next week’s election.

A recording would have allowed those who, for a variety of reasons, cannot attend the meetings to see how the board operates and how their elected officials are performing, something most elected officials claim to want.

It is worth noting that thanks to Georgia’s Open Meetings and Open Records Act, the school board lacks the authority to prevent a video recording of the meetings from being made and placed on the Internet. It can only prevent placement on the school system website.

 

To their credit, Chairwoman Missy Jarrard and board member Charlie Bryson cast votes in favor of open government, but they were outvoted by Jon Estes, Charlie Thomas and Barry Vandiver.

Vandiver’s term will end in December thus eliminating one “no” vote. He will be replaced by Jeannette Gearing or Linda Erbele.

FetchYourNews reached out to all the school board candidates to see where they stand on the issue. Erbele did not return our calls.

School Board member Charlie Bryson

Gearing was quick to say she would vote in favor of open government if the issue resurfaces again next year.

“I think it’s a great idea. I try to attend as many meetings as I can, but I have children who participate in a lot of activities so I can’t always be there. I’m sure there are a lot of people just like me who can’t be at all the meetings but would like to keep up with what is going on. So, if I am elected, I will vote to record the meetings and place the video on the school website,” Gearing said.

Bryson said, “Absolutely, I would vote for it again, without a doubt. There is no better way to show transparency than by recording the meetings and placing the video on the website for everyone to see.”

Calls and emails to Bryson’s opponents John Solmon and Carly Adam went unanswered.

 

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Walden, Bryant and Jarrard Win White Co. Races

News, Politics

WHITE COUNTY, Ga. — White County voters chose to return two incumbents to office and replace another Tuesday in the General Primary election

Sheriff Neal Walden received 2,790 votes to defeat challenger Aaron Autry’s 1,459. District 4 Commissioner Craig Bryant, who has served on the Board for 14 years, fought off a challenge from U.S. Army veteran Shawn Henderson. Bryant beat Henderson 671 to 477.

Walden, has served White County law enforcement for 37 years, including 25 as sheriff and he leads a highly experienced command staff.

“My command staff collectively has about 200 years of experience,” he said. “They have the pulse of the county. We’ve taken more than $6 million worth of drugs off the street in the last four years and made over 360 arrests. That’s stomping on the drug dealers’ toes.”

In the White County Board of Education race, Missy Jarrard defeated incumbent Kendyl Brock-Hunter 2,215 to 1,459.

Jarrard is a veteran educator with 23 years experience, including nine years as an elementary and middle school teacher and 14 years as a school counselor. She earned her Masters in School Counseling from the University of Georgia and says she would like to spend more time visiting each school.

“I do believe there needs to be a presence by the school board in the school building, not to micromanage but in order for you to get a full picture of what is going on in each school.”

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Missy Jarrard, Candidate School Board Chair

News, Politics

CLEVELAND, Ga. — Missy Jarrard is a veteran educator with 23 years experience, including nine years as an elementary and middle school teacher and 14 years as a school counselor. She holds a Bachelors Degree in Education from the University of North Georgia and a Masters in School Counseling from the University of Georgia. She believes the time has come to put her knowledge and experience to work for the citizens of White County which is why she has decided to run for chairman of the White County School Board.

At a recent candidate forum, Jarrard said, “Never have I seen teacher morale so low. We’re at a time when our teachers are in fear of speaking out and giving their opinion. Teachers and parents feel like when they have a concern that no one is truly listening to them. I believe our school system is in need of a voice for transparency and unity.”

Jarrard acknowledged that the school system has won some incredible awards but added that, “When you walk into the school building and talk to the teachers and students and listen to them, you know there are more stories to be told.”

One area where she disagrees with School Board Chair Kendyl Brock-Hunter is on whether or not school board members should spend more time in the schools.

Hunter says school board members are not there to micromanage. “We are there to listen to the administrators, listen to the parents, listen to the students listen to our community and to govern.”

Jarrard said, “I do believe there needs to be a presence by the school board in the school building. Not to micromanage but in order for you to get a full picture of what is going on in each school. To do that, you’ve got to be present.Those teachers need to see you walk down that hall, even if it’s just to have lunch. They need to see you and you need to be approachable and you need to have easy access.”

Both candidates agree there is too much student testing. Jarrard said, “I know a lot of those are state and federally mandated but there are some local decisions being made that add to the testing. We need to make sure we’re using that data in the correct manner. If the test is not a good tool to use to measure child’s ability we don’t need it. Our children are being over tested and it’s developmentally inappropriate.”

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White Co. Candidate Forum Draws Packed House

News, Politics

CLEVELAND, Ga. — A standing-room-only crowd elbowed its way into the Roy Ash, Jr. Community Building last night for the candidate forum hosted by White County News and WRWH Radio on the final week before the May 24 General Primary election.

The three contested races in White County this year are the Board of Education chairman’s race between incumbent Kendyl Brock-Hunter and Missy Jarrard, Sheriff Neal Walden and challenger Aaron Autry and the Board of Commissioners race between District 4 Commissioner Craig Bryant and Shawn Henderson.

The biggest surprise of the evening was that neither school board candidate was asked about the federal guideline issued last week by the Obama Justice and Education departments. That guideline directed school systems to allow transgender students to use bathrooms and dressing rooms consistent with their gender identity. The guideline does not carry the force of law, but administration officials have hinted that school systems that fail to comply could lose millions of dollars in federal funding.

After the forum ended, Fetch Your News caught up with the two candidates to ask where they stand on that important issue. Both were adamant that the federal government should butt out and that this is a local issue.

Hunter said, “Bottom line this is a local issue, not a federal issue. This is not something that needs to be mandated by the federal government. Let the local people decide. As a board member, I am part of a whole. So it would be something collectively we would discuss and decide on.”

Jarrard said, “This decision coming down from the federal government is just another example of how the federal government needs to stay out of local school systems. To me this is an issue that needs to be argued with the state. Let the voters go to the polls and vote on it. I don’t believe at the federal level they should be making any directives to a local school system. I personally would oppose it.”

Henderson said he would like to improve county government’s communications with its citizens. “I want to find new ways to put what we’re doing out there,” he said. “I want you to know what’s going on ahead of time.” He also said he would consider hiring a public information officer.
“I personally believe in term limits,” he added. “I believe after you have served a certain amount of time, you should stop and give somebody else a chance to serve.”

Bryant, who has served on the board for 14 years, said his greatest qualification for the office is his ability to deal with the public, “I’m a people person. I have the ability to talk to the people I’m sitting in front of. I’ll tell you the truth. I’ll tell you what you need to know, not what you want to hear. Right now the county is running as smooth as it has in a long time. We’ve got money in the bank and we’re still offering services.”

Sheriff Walden, who has served White County for 37 years, including 25 as sheriff, said his staff is highly experienced and has brought White County law enforcement into the 21st century.

“My command staff collectively has about 200 years of experience,” he said. “They have the pulse of the county. We’ve taken more than $6 million worth of drugs off the street in the last four years and made over 360 arrests. That’s stomping on the drug dealers’ toes.”

Autry, who has 22 years of law enforcement experience, said the county needs a work release program. “If you sentence someone on a child support charge, how in the world is he going to do that? If we had a work release program, which will pay for itself, it will help the person being sentenced but it will also help the family. That’s an issue we need to address.”

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School Board Race Could Draw Most Interest in Cleveland Candidate Forum Monday

News, Politics

CLEVELAND, Ga. — The candidate forum scheduled for 6 pm in Cleveland Monday could be one of the most interesting and entertaining of this political season in light of last week’s joint guideline issued by the U.S. Education and Justice departments.

There are only three contested races on the ballot in White County’s May 24 General Primary election. School board races are generally considered a “down ballot” race but not this year.

When the Obama Administration issued guidelines last week that dictated local school districts to allow transgender students to use the restroom and dressing room that matches their gender identity, school board races took on a greater importance. The guidelines do not carry the force of law but it is accompanied by a stern, if unspoken, threat that a school district’s failure to comply could lead the federal government to withhold its federal funding.

Tonight’s attendees will be permitted to ask questions of the candidates and they are certain to want to know where incumbent Kendyl Brock Hunter and challenger Missy Jarrard stand on this important issue.

Proponents of the guideline say there is no room in schools for discrimination of any kind, including discrimination against transgender students.

But opponents counter that it is up to Congress to write laws not the Obama Administration and that this is the kind of issue that should be decided by local school boards, communities, students and teachers.
Hunter is in her third term as chairman. An occupational therapist by profession and owner of Benchmark Physical Therapy, she is also a member of the Georgia School Board Association’s (GSBA) Board Chair Advisory Council.

Jarrard is a former educator with 23 years of experience, including nine years as a teacher at the elementary and middle school level and 14 years as a School Counselor. She holds a Master’s Degree in School Counseling from the University of Georgia

In the race for White County Sheriff, incumbent Neal Walden is being challenged by Aaron Autry.

Walden is a veteran lawman with 37 years of service to White County. He has been the county’s sheriff since 1991 and is past president of the Georgia Sheriff’s Association and Chairman of the Appalachian Drug Task Force.

Autry has 22 years’ experience, including stints with the City of Cleveland, Hall County White County and the City of Atlanta. He has worked with the North Georgia K-9 Task Force and is SWAT certified.

In the county commission race, Shawn Henderson is taking on Incumbent District 4 County Commissioner Craig Bryant.

The 40-year-old Henderson is owner of Henderson Family Insurance, an Independent insurance agency and an officer in the Georgia Army National Guard. He earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from the University of North Georgia and will earn a Master’s Degree in Organizational Leadership this month.

Bryant is an insurance agent He said he’s proud to have served on a Board of Commissioners that has built a new firehouse, soccer complex, road department and jail and has enlarged the senior center, added three new firetrucks and four full time firefighters.

Each candidate will be allowed a two-minute opening statement and brief closing and they have agreed to answer questions from the audience.

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Advanced Voting Slow in White Co. Where Turnout is Less Than 5 Percent

News, Politics

CLEVELAND, Ga. — Advanced voter turnout is slow in White County but Chief Voter Registrar Lisa Manning says it is way ahead of where it was in 2012. But that’s only because there were no contested races in the 2012 General Primary. This year, there are three local races, including sheriff, county commission and school board.

As of 10 a.m. Friday, Chief Voter Registrar Lisa Manning said only 540 ballots had been cast or less than 5 percent of White County’s 13,415 active registered voters.

“The Sheriff’s race is the most heated race,” Manning said. “It’s the one that seems to be drawing the most interest.” Veteran Sheriff Neal Walden is being challenged by Aaron Autry

In the District 4 County Commission race, incumbent Craig Bryant will face Shawn Henderson. In the Board of Education race, incumbent Kendyl Brock Hunter is being challenged by Missy Jarrard.

There is also an election for Ninth District Congress where incumbent Doug Collins of Gainesville has angered many conservatives when he voted for President Barack Obama’s Omnibus bill and supported John Boehner for Speaker of the House. As a result, he has drawn four challengers in former 10th District Congressman Paul Broun, Lanier Tea Part Patriots founder Mike Scupin, White County educator Roger Fitzpatrick and retired Army and National Guard Brigadier General Bernie Fontaine.

The lone state race on the ballot is for State Senate where incumbent Steve Gooch,who many consider an “establishment Republican,” is being challenged for re-election in the 51st District by John Williamson, co-founder of the Gilmer County Tea Party.

Advanced voting takes place at the Mauney Building, 1241 Helen Highway between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Saturday voting will take place tomorrow.

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Advanced Voting Underway in White County

News, Politics

WHITE COUNTY, Ga. — Advanced voting for the May 24 General Primary started Monday in White County where voters must decide who will represent them in several federal, state and local offices.

Ninth District Congressman Doug Collins of Gainesville angered many conservatives when he voted for President Barack Obama’s Omnibus bill and supported John Boehner for Speaker of the House. As a result, he has drawn four challengers in former 10th District Congressman Paul Broun, Lanier Tea Part Patriots founder Mike Scupin, White County educator Roger Fitzpatrick and retired Army and National Guard Brigadier General Bernie Fontaine.

State Senator Steve Gooch,who many consider an “establishment Repubican,” is being challenged for re-election in the 51st District by John Williamson, co-founder of the Gilmer County Tea Party.

Incumbent District 1 County Commissioner Terry Goodger will serve another four years after his only challenger, Ron Hood withdrew from the race for medical reasons. In the District 4 race, incumbent Craig Bryant will face Shawn Henderson.

Veteran Sheriff Neal Walden is being challenged by Aaron Autry and incumbent Board of Education Chairwoman Missy Jarrard is up against Kendyl Brock-Hunter.

Advanced voting takes place at the Mauney Building, 1241 Helen Highway between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. There will also be one day of Saturday voting on May 14.

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