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School board hears public input on transparency, equity

A number of parents, teachers, and students showed up to express concerns the Clarke County School District's transparency and equity.
CCSD YouTube
A number of parents, teachers, and students showed up to express concerns the Clarke County School District's transparency and equity.

Members of the Clarke County Board of Education heard from teachers, parents, and students about the ongoing controversy at one of the district’s elementary schools at their meeting last night. WUGA’s Martin Matheny has more.

A few dozen people, some holding handmade signs, filled about half of the meeting room last night, and the public comment portion of the meeting, which limits speakers to three minutes each, took around an hour. In that time, board members heard a lot about the recent issue at Oglethorpe Avenue Elementary School, where an administrator ordered a teacher to remove a piece of pro-LGBTQ student artwork, comparing its message to Nazi symbolism.

Some speakers pointed to the district’s response to the Oglethorpe Avenue controversy, as well as the recent reassignment of Clarke Middle School Principal Chris Pendley, as symptomatic of a larger district problem with transparency. OAES parent Jami Mays said, "There are some in this room right now who have made an effort to characterize this collective effort for accountability and transparency as a negative narrative or as disruptive. That could not be further from the truth."

Speakers also called on the Board of Education to exercise more oversight over district administrators, and to do more for teachers stretched thin by staffing shortages and the stresses of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Later in the meeting, board members had tough questions for district leadership about an apparent lack of equality in locker rooms between male and female student athletes. That was a point mentioned in the public comment period by a student athlete in the district who told board members that although there are more women’s sports than men’s sports at Clarke Central High School, women athletes only have one locker room compared to four men’s locker rooms.

Late in the meeting, board members voted unanimously to issue a $75 million bond package to jumpstart construction on projects approved by votes in last year’s education SPLOST. A vote to spend some $53,000 dollars on new laptops for onboarding passed 6 -2.

Martin Matheny is WUGA's Program Director and a host and producer of our local news program 'Athens News Matters.' He started at WUGA in 2012 as a part-time classical music host and still hosts WUGA's longest-running local program 'Night Music' which is heard on WUGA and GPB Classical. He lives in Normaltown with his wife, Shaye and dog, Murphy.