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Michael Geist Defends Reputation

The Cherokee County Board of Education member said he needed to respond to accusations made last month by Board Chair Mike Chapman.

Despite not wanting to make waves during Cherokee County Board of Education Chairman Mike Chapman's last meeting, fellow board member Michael Geist said on Thursday night that he had to defend his reputation from comments Chapman made at the board's meeting in November.

Geist said that Chapman accused Geist of trying to sway opinons and bully people at a meeting held regarding Cherokee Charter Academy. 

"I made it clear at the start of this meeting that I was attending as nothing more than a CCA parent," Geist said.

However, two days letter, a letter was sent to the Cherokee County School District stating that Geist had said he was attending as mediator and asked for the names of CCSD employees in attendance, allegations that Geist denies. That escalated to claims that Geist had crashed the meeting uninvited.

Geist said that Chapman raised the issue out of fear that the school system's accreditation would be put in jeopardy.

"If you really believed that, why wait so long to address it?" Geist said. "If you waited until five days before an electing, isn't this another way to mislead the public for political (gain)?"

In fact, Chapman was the one who violated board policy by adding last minute non-emergency items to baord agendas and voting on an item with which he is involved without filing a conflict of interest form, among other things, Geist said.

"I do not know if accusing me of false policy violations can put our accreditation at risk, but I do know there have been policy violations," Geist said. "I would suggest this board take a good, hard look at itself before it casts the first stone."

Geist also said that the board should have remained neutral regarding Amendment 1, which would restore the state's power to approve charter schools. In April, the BOE approved a resolution asking that Georgians vote down the amendment with Geist and Kim Cochran voting against. The measure passed in Cherokee County and state-wide.

"It shows a remarkable amount of arrogance for elected officials to tell people how they should vote," he said.

Cochran questioned Chapman's comment in November in which he stated that he and other board members had concerns about some of Geist's actions.

"I did not agree with statements Mr. Chapman made or questions he raised," Cochran said. "I have found Mr. Geist to be consciencious to not take actions that would hurt the system. I am a little disappointed that you as a board member and board chair did not address these concerns when you had them."

In other business, the board voted to add sixth grade to the district's middle schools with the new E.T. Booth Middle School taking sixth-graders next fall, the new Teasley Middle School the year after and the new Dean Rusk Middle School soon after that.

Under the plan, Bascomb, Boston and Oak Grove elementary schools will be turned into K-4 schools. Clark Creek Elementary School currently is a K-5 school, and no changes will be made at Ball Ground Elementary School, which serves students from Kindergarten to sixth grade. Ball Ground will remain as a K-6 school because no clear consensus was determined after two parent meetings.

Board member Robert Wofford said he was concerned about overcrowding at the middle schools. However, Russ Sims, assistant superintendent for support services and facilities/construction management, said that officials look at student population predictions far in advance.

"It's like a long-range weather forecast," Sims said.

Officials can track births, and determine what schools those children will attend and when they will start.

"We have a much better handle on where the growth has been, where it is, where it will be and what our needs are," Superintendent Frank Petruzielo said.

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