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BOE Chair Mike Chapman Attacks Fellow Board Member

The county's longest serving school board member criticizes fellow member Michael Geist for allegedly violating board policy.

Not the one to shy away from controversy, Cherokee School Board Chairman Mike Chapman criticized fellow board member and charter school supporter Michael Geist for what he referred to as Geist's violation of school board policies.

Chapman, who decided not to seek re-election after he was reapportioned out of his current post by the Georgia legislature, said it was "imperative" to point out Geist's actions, which Chapman said "disturbs me greatly."

"Mr. Geist, as I move off the board I feel it imperative that I and fellow board members confront you on your actions as a member of this board," he said. "I raise this issue strictly with the desire to prevent our system from moving back into the past which could very well put our accreditation in question."

Chapman was referencing a time when the school district was placed on accreditation probation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, or SACS. Chapman noted school board at the time "had a few members who willfully exhibited inappropriate and unethical behavior."  

Chapman accuses Geist of violating board policies by undermining Superintendent of Schools Dr. Frank Petruzielo. He noted in an opinion written by Geist labeled The Charter School Debate made "false claims" that the school district's Cherokee Academies initiative should be attributed to competition and the opening of Cherokee Charter Academy.

"The notion of “competition” from CCA is illogical, as CCA in the past school year offered no unique programs when compared with school district schools," Chapman added. 

Chapman, who lives in Canton, also accused Geist of:

  • violating school board policy calling for board members to advocate and for the "educational welfare of children attending schools within the school system" by speaking in support of the proposed charter school amendment on the Nov. 6 ballot. 
  • violated board policy, which mandates board members to "render all decisions based on available facts and his or her independent judgment and refuse to surrender his or her judgment to individuals or special interest groups."
  • violated board policy, which calls for board members to express opinions on items before the board takes action, but stand behind board decisions after a vote is taken.

"While your children attend CCA, it is your role as a Cherokee County School Board member, according to board policy, to have greater concern for the school district’s schools than for CCA," Chapman said. 

The "most egregious violation" Chapman said Geist committed occurred when he allegedly attended a Cherokee Citizens For The Kids (CCFTK) meeting in April with the "intention of swaying opinions and bullying the attendees regarding the charter school issue."

Chapman accused Geist of asking CCFTK members who their employers were and while he "had no concern who the employers of the other members attending." That, he said, could be construed as Geist "overstepping" his role as a school board member. 

Chapman noted SACS at any time can place districts on probation if its school board members interfere with school administration and operations. He added he hopes Geist would consider his actions "as they relate to your sworn duty as a member of this board."

Chapman also requested Geist to bring forth answers to questions he had about Cherokee Charter, including if they would be more aggressive in recruiting low income families, why the school has a waiting list, if the school can be deemed a "choice" for parents if they can't provide transportation and other questions relating to the school's finances as well as how students with special needs are served at the school. 

Chapman's comments received some applause from a few members of the audience.

While Geist did say he was not "prepared" to respond fully to Chapman's comments, he did take a moment to denounce Chapman's assertions.

“My enthusiasm and support for choice and for charter schools comes not from how it impacts individual students or the students attending CCA," he said. "It’s what I think it can do for the students in Cherokee County and in our system.”

Geist also criticized Chapman for coming to the conclusion that Cherokee Charter Academy supporters have labeled the school district as not caring about students.

"It seems to me that you haven’t hesitated in your comments tonight to draw that conclusion and characterize my actions as not caring about the kids in Cherokee County and the kids of our school system," he said. 

Geist also pointed to past actions by the board, noting that it "appears" that some of the issues taken up by the board appear to be for "political reasons rather than what's best for the children."

Geist went on to imply that Chapman's comments were politically motivated, adding he wonders if Chapman's comments "have more to do with your concern about my actions and impact to the school system as opposed to the potential impact of (the) publicity and discussion...on next week's election, specifically on Amendment 1."

Geist was referring to the constitutional amendment voters will consider on Nov. 6, which would create a separate entity that would approve charter schools at the state level. 

“I think our focus needs to be less on the politics and more on the welfare of the children," he added.

Geist on Friday afternoon elaborated on his feelings about Chapman's comments. He repeated his stance that they were politically motivated.

"The timing of this, I think, suggests that it might be about (gaining) a political advantage in the charter school debate,” he said. "I think it’s unfortunate that we are using the school board as a place to have this debate.” 

He also said his "differences in political opinions" with Petruzielo does not amount to undermining the superintendent's authority. 

He said the "political" back and forth has become a distraction "when our business should be focused on other things."

"When we are spending time and energy on a political question that is at the state level, we are taking energy from other activities," he added. 

Geist also noted nothing Chapman mentioned about the April CCFTK meeting was "remotely true."

He noted he was in a discussion with stakeholders, parents and employees of both Cherokee Charter and the school district and innocently asked where those in the group were employed in an effort to start a discussion, which he said was designed to "mend fences" between both organizations.

Geist also said will have a more thorough response to Chapman's statements by the Dec. 6 meeting and noted he hopes others who heard the school board chair's comments would “reserve judgment until they hear my response.”

While the other four school board members remained silent during the exchange, School Board Vice Chair Janet Read weighed in on Geist's remarks. Read, who lives in Towne Lake, noted she "takes offense" at Geist's characterization of the board's motive on certain actions as being political in nature.

"I can say as a board member for last 8 years, my decisions are based on what’s best for the children,” she added. 

Monty Brewster November 06, 2012 at 03:00 PM
At least he wasn't too busy looking at Forsyth. He's been focused on Cherokee and will continue to be a very helpful community member, unlike his haters which only like to complain about living in one of the best school districts.
Monty Brewster November 06, 2012 at 03:01 PM
Speaking of puppets... have you pulled "The Winner's" hand out of your backside? Or are these his words you're typing?
Monty Brewster November 06, 2012 at 03:04 PM
The Cromer/Kelly! post was much much closer. There are still discrepancies that were never resolved with that post. A lot of voters complaining that their ballots were wrong. Wonder if that was on purpose? Hmmmm...
No More Bullies November 06, 2012 at 03:30 PM
Geist was NOT elected to represent constituents. SB84, authored by your very own Chip Rogers and signed into law, states: Given the specialized nature and unique role of membership on a local board of education, this elected office should be characterized and treated differently from other elected offices where the primary duty is independently to represent constituent views. Local board of education members should abide by a code of conduct and conflict of interest policy modeled for their unique roles and responsibilities. And although there are many measures of the success of a local board of education, one is clearly essential: maintaining accreditation and the opportunities it allows the school system's students." The SCHOOL SYSTEM'S STUDENTS. Not those who CHOOSE other education options-- private school, home school or charter school. That is the law (as written by Chip).
Jim Beam November 06, 2012 at 04:08 PM
Actually, Chapman's a complete roadblock to any educational reform to the half of Cherokee County that is pro-parental choice (if not more than half). The man's an educational dinosaur. His time is mercifully up. Can't wait to see him leave. He's a millstone around the neck of educational reform and progress.
Jim Beam November 06, 2012 at 04:09 PM
Monty, you let me know when you've got something to say that isn't being piped to you directly from Dr P's office, probably using taxpayer-funded facilities.
Jim Beam November 06, 2012 at 04:11 PM
Wrong as usual, Monty. CCSD takes charter parent property tax and spends it on non-charter students. Charter parents aren't having a dime of their local $$$ used to actually educate their children. The district is making out like bandits by taking charter kids' money and not spending it on education of charter kids. District is a big winner here. Charter parents are the losers, though their children win since the charter school does a better job of education than the district is doing.
Jim Beam November 06, 2012 at 04:12 PM
Wrong. Candidates are elected to represent the taxpayers. They ARE NOT elected to be Dr. P's puppets, which is all the BOE is right now.
No More Bullies November 06, 2012 at 04:25 PM
The law says school board members do not serve constituents like other elected officials. So, the law is wrong?
Monty Brewster November 06, 2012 at 04:44 PM
I'm sorry, but I can't give credit to anyone but myself for my words. As I've mentioned before, I've never had a conversation with Dr. P, let alone been instructed on what to say. If you think that I am being led by CCSD's leaders as to what I am to say, then I must be on the right track. I appreciate your affirmation.
Monty Brewster November 06, 2012 at 04:50 PM
Prove it. Show me where the money that is supposed to be going to the district schools (austerity cuts) is not going to charters. Show me that the 25% of the county education taxes that the state takes from Cherokee is not going to any charter schools. Where does the money go? Where do charters get their money? How is the state able to increase funding for charters, while cutting funding to districts? It's very simple to see what is happening here regardless of a loop-hole law created by corrupt politicians to take district funding and hand it over to charters all the while pointing back at 797 and saying... "no local money is being taken from public schools." That is absolute bull snot.
MP November 06, 2012 at 07:26 PM
Oh no, no, no, no, no. Mr. Geist (as the courts have said twice now), has his own "First Amendment Rights," and therefore, he may advocate for or against based on his conscience and what he feels is best for children. What's good for the goose is good for the gander. Suck it up, Chapman!
Robert November 06, 2012 at 08:06 PM
Out of one side of his mouth, Mr. Chapman accuses Mr. Geist of improperly advocating for the Charter School initiative while serving on the CCSB. Then out of the other side of his mouth, Mr. Chapman demands that Mr. Geist answer on behalf of Charter Schools as to why the Charter Schools don't recruit low income kids more aggressively, provide transportation to and from the schools, and defend the existence of a waiting list! I would call this political grand standing by Mr. Chapman, but it hardly rises to the level of incompetent moaning.
Debbie Harry November 06, 2012 at 10:30 PM
At least we've got Janet Read, with her common sense approach and her history of looking out for all the children in Cherokee County. Definitely a better choice than that bozo Dukes who tried again and failed.
Jim Beam November 06, 2012 at 10:58 PM
Debbie, I agree - Read cannot possibly be worse than bottom-of-the-barrel Chapman. I hope Read stops hating charter school children & their parents the way Chapman does.
Jim Beam November 06, 2012 at 11:01 PM
Monty, you need to re-examine the definition of the word 'leader'. The only thing Dr. P leads is the queue at the buffet line.
Jim Beam November 06, 2012 at 11:02 PM
Monty, not a dime of Cherokee County property tax goes to the charter school, since the local board didn't approve it. That's the law.
Jim Beam November 06, 2012 at 11:03 PM
Last I checked, Mr. Geist has the same First Amendment rights as the rest of us. If he wants to campaign for the Parental Choice crowd, I'm all for it. Esp. since union members have campaigned for the NO crowd on taxpayer facilities.
Jim Beam November 06, 2012 at 11:04 PM
Chapman's middle name is "Incompetent" - it's a little-known fact.
Debbie Harry November 06, 2012 at 11:26 PM
Steely, I know that Janet will do a great job. She's done a great job for years and she was by FAR the best candidate in this summer's race. I'm sad to see Chapman go. I think he has been a terrific board member. I'm still angry at our local legislative delegation for drawing him out of his post. It was shameful retaliation. Glad that Jordan will be on the board. Definitely think Cromer was the better candidate in that race. I agree with Monty. I think Marlow will have SACS looking over our business sooner than later. She and Geist care about 1000 kids, not the 39,000 kids.
Debbie Harry November 06, 2012 at 11:59 PM
Steely Dan, how can you argue with state law? Are you really that stupid?
Debbie Harry November 07, 2012 at 12:01 AM
Chapman was 100% correct in what he called Geist out on. Geist deserved every word. And Steely, I've only read a few things so far, but I am so over your insults and avoidance of the truth. You contribute nothing to the discussion.
Debbie Harry November 07, 2012 at 12:06 AM
Geist himself has said many times that his only role at CCA is "just a parent." Now, if you believe that, I have a swamp to sell you. However, by his own words, he DOES NOT and SHOULD NOT represent CCA. He has so many ethical violations it's amazing. He continues to demonstrate that he doesn't care about CCSD students. Not. One. Bit.
Jim Beam November 07, 2012 at 12:19 AM
Debbie, if the charter haters can openly campaign on public taxpayer property, so can Geist.
Jim Beam November 07, 2012 at 12:22 AM
Thanks for continuing to read my posts, Debbie! Regardless of how 'over' you are of me, Mike Chapman's Reign of Error will soon be "over" too. For good. good riddance!
Monty Brewster November 07, 2012 at 01:48 AM
QBE is the law, too. But that hasn't been followed in years. This is just another reason why our state is at the bottom of the barrel in ethics.
Mike payne November 07, 2012 at 10:39 PM
School choice is here once again good triumphs over bad. Dr. P you and Janet are so far in the minority it would be appreciated it you would both step back and take notice of the Cherokee County totals on Amendment 1. You never have and I doubt ever will speak for the majority. We are going to have to do what FL did and that is drag Dr. P out of office kicking and screaming. Now on to the next fight, let’s get the local funds flowing to the Charter School as well, full voucher system. We have got to save the rest of the kids trapped in schools their parents do not want them in.
hope November 07, 2012 at 11:13 PM
I look forward to the drama Marlow will bring to the table. Bravo TV has cameras ready to roll. The trashier the better. Cherokee County never disappoints!
Phil McCall November 08, 2012 at 01:44 AM
Dear Monty - Until this election when board members represent a defined post, all the board members were elected to represent ALL of us in the County. To answer your question directly - I believe Chapman completely ignored the people and schools he found unacceptable to his narrow views. Chapman chose status quo which is not representing the majority of our citizens.
Jim Beam November 08, 2012 at 02:36 AM
Monty, I need to correct myself. I apologize - I was wrong when I said half the county wants school choice. The results are in and it's more like 60% of the county. Statewide, 600,000 more people favor School Choice than the failed status quo. Thank god that dinosaur Chapman is leaving. Let's hope the super either follows him or gets on-board with School Choice. And let this be a friendly reminder to the other School Board members up for re-election over the next few years: Ignore School Choice at your electoral peril. The people have spoken - 60% of the county favors more educational choices for parents and their kids. Geist being at the forefront of this movement bodes well for his re-election.

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