Decision on Brooks, Tyrone schools ‘tough’? Mostly, it was ‘stupid’

I once worked under the same roof as Lewis Grizzard, a fellow some of you will remember. I was not a close friend, but I knew him well enough to figure he would have enjoyed doing a column or two about the goofy Fayette County news I saw in The Citizen last week.

First was the lengthy guest editorial by Fayette County Commission Chairman Steve Brown praising the Fayette County Board of Education in making the “tough decisions” to close four schools, including Tyrone where my granddaughter is a student.

Commissioner Brown, that was a very stupid decision, at least in shutting down the Tyrone and Brooks schools.

Before the board voted, I sent a letter to BOE Chairperson Marion Key citing the damage the closing of those schools would cause, not only for the children but the other social and economic fabric of the communities involved.

I’m new to Fayette, so I didn’t pay a penny of tax for the Tyrone school or the town’s excellent library, fire station and the tennis courts and lake in the nice park we use almost daily.

But I was certainly willing to cough up some additional property tax to help fund these schools, especially after paying taxes in Atlanta for 30 years. If I could kick in an extra $100 as my share, it would be fine with me.

I’ve paid Fayette County $75 over the past 12 months just for a “wildlife” tag, and last week they didn’t even have a new one for the car. Yep, times are tough just about everywhere, including the Fayette tag office.

And as I said to Ms. Key, I don’t need to know what the Tea Party people think about schools and taxes. I was a political appointee under the Ronald Reagan administration 27 years ago. And would President Reagan be in favor of closing the Tyrone and Brooks schools? Of course not!

I will give BOE member Mary Kay Bacallao, bless her heart, credit for voting not to close any of the schools. I saw her in a debate before she was elected and she said then she was not in favor of closing schools.

She kept her word, and the fact she is the most qualified of the BOE members tells me all I want to know. For the record, she has a Ph.D. degree in education and about 20 years of professional experience in the field.

I knew when I sent my letter, the BOE was hell-bent on closing those schools. The past school superintendent had voiced his support for keeping the schools open, and after he was pushed out the door, he was so bad the school system in Rome hired him in only a few weeks.

And there was The Citizen story about the “Pinewood project” that Matt Forshee is all excited about over at the Fayette County Development Authority. After some voting, the 288-acre “Pinewood Studios” proposal has been sent over to Commissioner Brown and the other commissioners for some type of final decision.

Mr. Forshee is talking about 2,000 full-time jobs, several more thousand jobs in related areas with an initial construction of five film/TV sound stages, more stuff to follow.

I’m going to read between the lines here, and I hate to rain on Forshee’s parade.

For starters, nothing was mentioned about where the money is coming from on this deal. If it’s coming from Pinewood Studios (based in England) would Forshee be putting their name out for every other industrial developer in the USA to see, and go for the same project? Just for the heck of it, I went on the Pinewood Studios website and searched around under “news” for any mention of plans to local something in Fayette County.

I saw nothing on Fayette, but I did see where the studio has started construction on a new $7.5 million state of the art production facility, but that is at its Buckinghamshire site.

Just a few facts of life for the Development Board: California, and its “Moonbeam” governor, whether we like it or not, has the redwoods; it has Silicon Valley, Google and all the rest; and it has the film/TV industry along with the red carpet they just rolled out a few days ago for those Oscars.

If Atlanta’s super successful Tyler Perry was part of this project, or Atlanta native Ryan Seacrest was connected, I would give it more than a second look. And if Mr. Forshee has some private investors dumb enough to put up the money for the buildings, more power to him. Maybe he can get them to buy Holyfield’s vacant mansion in another Fayette County pasture. At least they might turn it into a bed and breakfast.

In the meantime, don’t get a U-Haul, Mr. Forshee, to pull that “Hollywood” sign down in LA to be trucked over to a smaller hill in Fayette County. And don’t try to get any financial backing (bond issue kind of scheme) from the county commission, because they don’t have enough money to keep the sweet Tyrone school open for another year.

Please remember, Mr. Forshee, Peachtree City and the nearby Atlanta Airport are the main cards this county still holds. You have managed to put the Pinewood Studios brand on this pending deal. So please tell them to at least post it on their website, if the money is in fact coming out of their back pockets. And, oh, thanks for that 10-foot wide path for “public use” the “Pinewood” plan calls for. You have to keep the golf cart people happy.

My last statements deal with the commission’s U-turn, or call it back-sliding, on the West Fayetteville Bypass. Commissioner Brown, who was on record against the second phase, says he and the other reasonably honorable commissioners have no choice but to go ahead with the next phase (and how much taxpayer money?) because there might be lawsuits if they don’t.

Let me ask, did the commission get a lawyer from Sears on this road, not leaving the county no, zero, nada escape clauses in the paperwork?

If you are a county commission chairman these days, and you want to avoid lawsuits, you might want to look for another line of work. Or maybe the commission has been watching too many of those Ken Nugent “One Call That’s All” commercials out of Atlanta TV.

After living in this state for three decades, I know it’s easier to kill one of those “Walking Dead” zombies over in Senoia than stopping a road in Georgia after it is been put on the books.

Georgia politicians, especially those under the Gold Dome, start acting funny when they smell a little asphalt. The stuff gets up in their nostrils and before long they get a strange glaze over their eyes.

We will have to wait until the next commission meeting to see if this is the case with our elected group.

James Hightower

Tyrone, Ga.

Missy
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Husband and father, you said

Husband and father, you said " but I have yet to see a spreadsheet with the reductions needed to allow those schools to stay open". Well the citizens have yet to see any spreadsheet or figures on why they should close the schools, except for the ONE time savings of $800,000 per school figure they kept throwing out there. How much is it going to cost in building maintenance when the schools are closed? Are the closed schools paid for, or will we still be making payments? How much more will the Transportation Dept spend on gas now, etc. It is not as cut and dried as the BOE made it sound.

Davids mom
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Cart before the horse?

From the website: FIlm Georgia

Quote:

“Wow!” people have been saying all day, “So is Pinewood Studios really coming to Georgia?”
Well yeah, kind of. Right now the project is a proposal for a development. More on that in a bit.

Missy
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BOE

Mr. Hightower has hit the nail on the head in his editorial. And Husband and Father, there WERE hundreds of well thought out ideas presented to the Board over many months. I know, because I was there. Sam Sweat and the Board had their minds made up and nothing was going to change it. Todd and Key had made it clear that they wanted those schools to close and forced Bearden out so they could get their way. All of those meetings were dog and pony shows so that the public thought they actually had input. I truly believe that Presberg listened and tried to do the right thing but he made the wrong decision. The only good thing to come out of this is that if we can't get them out sooner by recall, Todd and Key will not get re elected again. Now I gotta go check out info on that new Coweta County Charter school...

Husband and Fat...
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Lots of Ideas presented, yes.

There were hundreds of ideas presented. Not sure about some being well thought out, but I give them kudos for the attempt. Look at the present projections. The board could easily have mothballed two additional elementry schools and one middle school. Were lucky they didnt go after those too. Many good people tried to make it work, but I have yet to see a spreadsheet with the reductions needed to allow those schools to stay open. I would love to see a plan that worked, but there is non.

Beardens heart may have been in the right place, but logic dictated these closings and possibly more. He may have been a good educational leader, but he appeared to have challenges on the financial side.

The difficult part is coming soon. Personnel. And I might add, good people. Unfortuneatly, our previous board failed to make the necessary cuts slowly over the last 4-5 years and now after using up our contingencies, we have to cut a lot a once. Not an easy pill to swallow.

fc1989
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WHAT??

Cal

I understand you posting differing views and opinions but this is nothing but senseless rambling...

Husband and Fat...
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Mr. Hightower- welcome to Fayette County

You make a lot of fine points.

I too would be ok with a slightly higher tax if we could have saved the schools in Tyrone and Brooks, but I believe that we are already maxed out in the allowable school tax. Please correct me if I am incorrect in this understanding. I along with many people smarter than me have studied the budget and keeping these schools open could not be accomplished. If someone had a plan that allowed the schools to stay open, they certainly were not able to convince anyone. That's exactly why I was annoyed with Ms. Bacallao's vote. Her plan did not work, and to vote for a fairy tale instead of reason proved to me that she is playing politics instead of voting with her head.

You are correct that the county probably should have kept quiet concerning Pinewood until all of the paperwork is signed . I believe the commissioners leaked the information to make themselves look good and to provide a reason to vote against stopping the construction of Phase 2 of the bypass. I don't believe one minute they couldn't get out of the contract if they truly wanted to. I think Mr. Ognio and Barlow need to explain their position to continue with the road, especially after they have publicly condemned the road for years and when we still do not have any solid commitment from Pinewood .

suggarfoot
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Where was Hightower when they needed help?

It is always easy to be a back seat driver. Little late with the tag idea.

Husband and Father said it best. "Please correct me if I am incorrect in this understanding. I along with many people smarter than me have studied the budget and keeping these schools open could not be accomplished. If someone had a plan that allowed the schools to stay open, they certainly were not able to convince anyone. That's exactly why I was annoyed with Ms. Bacallao's vote. Her plan did not work, and to vote for a fairy tale instead of reason proved to me that she is playing politics instead of voting with her head"

We have some very good people who ran for the BOE job when it was open for any and all to do so. These people stepped forward. Others didn't.

They are doing what others either didn't have the time to do, or couldn't be bothered. Backseat driving is always easy.

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