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Fayette schools get high student marks

Recently, Ms. Gail Onesi offered us her assessment of our school board and its performance. While I believe that everyone has different opinions and priorities that influence them, it is also important to consider the facts. The Fayette County Schools are consistently at the top of any performance measure.

This week the annual system pass rates for the CRCT were published. Again, our Fayette schools bested all metro systems (including Cobb, and Cherokee) in every grade in every subject.

When we measure our schools against systems of similar size, we score first or second place in every category with Forsyth County providing some serious competition.

Last week, the state graduation tests were released and two of our five high schools were in the top 25. Our system was ranked second overall behind Cherokee County. Our SAT performance is annually in the top 10 in the state with nearly 80 percent of our seniors taking the test.

No other county comes close to that type of performance. Our neighbors in Coweta recently scored a top 10 system SAT performance with less than 50 percent of seniors taking the test.

Congratulations to our students, teachers, parents and administrators for such great results. However, I think we often forget about the “Fayette Advantage” that helps fuel this success.

Ms. Onesi points to a rumor that we have system capacity equal to 6.5 empty schools. This is incorrect. Our system was at 84 percent of planned FCBOE capacity which is approximately 95 percent of state allowed. Based on performance, I submit that our administration knows more than the state of Georgia.

Our board has supported class sizes below the state maximum which may result in excess capacity but also result in more attention for the students.

Neighborhood schools have been a hallmark of the Fayette strategy and results in integrated communities invested in the success of the schools and its students.

To follow Ms. Onesi’s comment to its logical conclusion, she would support closing schools, thus reducing capacity, redistricting (again) and creating an unstable situation where ongoing population shifts would pit neighbor against neighbor and take focus from the mission of an excellent school system and place focus on battles over attendance at certain schools, similar to the ongoing debate about Bennett’s Mill Middle School.

I strongly disagree with the idea that equates our neighborhood schools to factories where demand can be directed at any factory regardless of location. Our schools are located in neighborhoods that seek to minimize transportation time, maximize community, and result in well-educated students ready to take on the challenges of tomorrow. It is time to lay to rest the redistricting battles of yesterday and come together to advance our schools.

Given the excellent performance of our schools and the excellent achievements of our students at a below average cost over the past years, I was surprised to read that Dr. Todd said, “If you are happy with the last eight or nine years, you need to vote for my opponent.”

While I expect that our board work together to advance our schools and seek to unite our community behind them instead of exploiting past differences, I am generally happy with the results of our schools over the past eight or nine years.

Neil Sullivan

Peachtree City, Ga.



Just as plain and simple as that.You don't get it or want to because you got in bed with the devil and helped tax your fellow citizens by spearheading the Esplost. You fail to recognize that you helped pit neighbor against neighbor and broke the piggy bank.
Just sad really. Wake up and stop drinking the Smola/Smith koolaid. Really what is in this for you? A promotion for the wife?

You argue against closing schools claiming it would lead to reduced capacity and redistricting, but what about a school like Rivers Elementary that currently houses 40 students? Let me repeat that, an entire school with only 40 students! Would you really suggest that it is imperative that a school with only 40 students remain open? A school that was built, I suspect, to line the pockets of Terri Smith's cronies, if not Terri herself? They overbuilt, and the only people who benefited were developers, not the students, citizens, and certainly not the teachers of this county.

As for the performance of our students, I think most of the credit goes to our criminally underpaid teachers, who were bullied into a pay cut last year in order to save the hides of the administrators, the BOE, and the comptroller who have no idea how manage money. The fact is, Fayette won't be able to continue to attract top-notch teachers because the pay is so bad. They are professionals and deserve to be treated better than this. They are the people who work hard to help our children reach their goals, and they receive very little thanks in return. You know how much respect Terri Smith has for our teachers? Last year, she called any teacher who was hesitant to agree to a pay cut a "jerk." Terri is the jerk. It wasn't the bad economy that led our system to near financial ruin, it was the greed and incompetence of Terri Smith, Janet Smola, and their gang of cretins. Fayette teachers were already among the lowest paid in the state before the pay cut and furloughs. As a community, we owe it to our teachers to look at the hardships they've been forced to endure thanks to the incompetence of Janet Smola, Terri Smith, Lee Wright, John DeCotis, and Laura Brock. The teachers of Fayette schools are the ones who have been paying for our children's educations, and they will continue to pay as long as people like Smith and Smola control the board. They are a cancer on our school system, and Charlie Cave will only help them continue to destroy everything the rest of us have worked to build.

If you are happy with the last 8 or 9 years, you haven't been paying attention.

suggarfoot's picture

I just copied every comment Gail Onesi made about the schools and pasted them below. No where does she say a word about redistricting!

(Which fear mongering email tree are YOU in charge of?)

"The Board of Education under the leadership of Chairman Terri Smith has jumped out of the plane without a parachute. They built all these schools we didn’t need and are closing other buildings after we just renovated them....
For those of you who don’t keep up with the newspapers, you need to know that the BOE incumbent running for re-election, Bob Todd, has been on the right side of the issues. Dr. Todd has challenged Terri Smith’s positions but lost in a series of 3-2 votes....

One gentleman at a local forum said we have the equivalent of six and one-half extra schools. That’s dreadful.....

This nice school mom asked to see some documents on a school administration issue she was concerned about. She got a letter back from the BOE attorney saying the she would have to pay $2,000 in order to get those documents. Chairman Terri Smith has yelled at people who speak at meetings. Some of those exchanges are on

The BOE terminated some of the teachers and para-pros working with our children and cut the pay of the remaining teachers, but top administrators and the superintendent all got nice pay raises.....

Chairman Terri Smith has a real significant problem with her financial disclosure reports and doesn’t appear to want us knowing what she is up to...."

my guess is you are referring to the 1st statement about building schools we don't need...

Rivers has around 40 kids in it. That is a fact. It was built for 600. What kind of ratio is 40 to 600? It certainly isn't the one you printed.

The high test scores are a fact too, but I don't see your logic in crediting Smith/Smola overbuilding with those scores? explain that

I would say the credit for the test scores goes to the UNDERPAID teachers, OVERTAXED parents, and children who are trying.

You, Smith, and Smola must no doubt share jovial Sunday afternoon truck rides with Commissioner Horgan before you think this mess up!

suggarfoot's picture

How is Smola's next building project, her "magnet high school", gonna work?

I mean with the nepotism?

When you hire non certified people instead of certified teachers?

Kind of laughable don't you think?

suggarfoot's picture

While you are working out the ratio at Rivers..

work out this ratio for me and explain it.

While certified teachers got a pay raise of 2% or whatever between 2008 and 2009..

How does an uncertified person's salary go from 29,000ish in 2008, to 37,000ish in 2009?

What is the ratio there, and more importantly the justification?

Looks closer to a 30% increase as opposed to a .02% doesn't it?

It is public record.

me.and_the_sea's picture

"Our board has supported class sizes below the state maximum which may result in excess capacity but also result in more attention for the students."

Was that what they had in mind with, as someone stated 40 kids in a school built for 600?

"Neighborhood schools have been a hallmark of the Fayette strategy and results in integrated communities invested in the success of the schools and its students"

Rivers Elementary is 4.3 miles from the closest city limit of Tyrone.

5.2 from Fayetteville

8.5 from Peachtree City

Which one of these neigborhood's would benifit to put 6 yr olds on a buss to travel that distance?

Or, could you be wanting to educate the cows in the pastures that surround Rivers?

Maybe all the developers that own those cow pastures are going back to school?

Couldn't be, they already know enough slick willy tricks!

It is however, right on the bypass!

ginga1414's picture

Mr. Sullivan, could you please tell me, in your opinion, what was the rationale in changing the location of the new (6th) high school to a field on Phase I of the West Fayetteville Bypass? The newest proposed location for the 6th highschool is two (2) miles or more from the original location. From the WFB map, it looks like the new high school was moved to the middle of a "future" neighborhood.

Also, Mr. Sullivan, if I remember correctly, Rivers Elementary was supposedly built to relieve overcrowding at Burch elementary. That didn't happen. Why, Mr. Sullivan, didn't that happen? Why are there only 40 students in a school meant to hold over 600 students?

If the plan is to build schools in neighborhoods, WHY was Rivers build in the middle of nothing? The West Fayetteville Bypass is the "Road To Nowhere." Empty (for all practical purposes) Rivers Elementary sits right next to the proposed "Road To Nowhere." Rivers Elementary sits smack in the middle of developer property that also sits next to the WFB "Road To Nowhere."

What is the rationale behind all of that, Mr. Sullivan? Could it possibly be, "We do the supplying and the demand will follow?" That is what it looks like to me.

It looks like to me that if Smith and Smola had not thrown their weight around at the School Board meetings, we the taxpayers, the teachers, the parents and Fayette County students wouldn't have to suffer for the blundering of Smith and Smola. If other Board members go along with whatever Smith and Smola want, I guess you could say that our Board is working together. However, if two School Board members have the couragel to voice their opinions, would you say that our Board is not working "together?"

Since you are "generally happy with the results of our schools over the past eight or nine years," I guess you are happy with the fact that the County has built an empty school in a field, in a PROPOSED housing development, next to a proposed "Bypass/Parkway/Thoroughfare" with a speed limit of 45mph. Then again, that road (West Fayetteville Bypass) couldn't possibly be referred to as a "Bypass" or a "Parkway" or a "Thoroughfare" with a speed limit of 25 mph in a school zone; could it, Mr. Sullivan?

Shut-down Rivers Elementary completely. The School Board needs to cut their loses. The School Board needs to stop illegally over buying property to resell so that maybe, just maybe, they might be able to come a little closer to paying our teachers what they deserve.

ginga1414's picture

You are right, me, Rivers must have been built because the developers needed/wanted to go back to school. I like that idea a lot. Smith and Smola have thought of everything else, it is just too bad they haven't thought of that one.

Hi Suggarfoot/Susie/Totellthetruth/Ginga1414:

Thanks for responding I hope you don't mind, but I am sending one big response to all of you since my time is limited.

Personally I do not like the decision to build River’s that DR. BOB TODD VOTED FOR. At the time it was built, Burch was at 112% of capacity and we had several classes of kids in trailers, today it is at 103%. I did not think the answer was to build a school in a decision ALL FIVE school board members voted for. I think I even remember seeing Dr. Todd and Mrs. Key in the ground breaking photo with hard hats and shovels. By your logic, if River’s is a decision point for voting, Dr. Todd must be held accountable for his vote.

Where exactly do you think the comment “we have the equivalent of six and one-half extra schools” leads too? If you believe we have excess capacity, the answer is to redistrict and close schools otherwise what will Dr. Todd do different? I was told by Dr. D that the FCBOE strategy is to have the schools between 80 – 85 % capacity. Today we are at 84% counting Rivers.
Here is a summary of where our system school is with capacity based on the CAFR on the website.

State Cap Fayette Cap Students v. State v. Fayette

2010 26,990 25,653 21,579 80% 84%
2009 26,990 25,653 21,892 81% 85%
2008 26,940 25,607 21,995 82% 86%
2007 24,987 23,738 22,211 89% 94%
2006 24,856 23,613 22,123 89% 94%
2005 24,706 23,471 21,521 87% 92%
2004 24,706 23,471 21,065 85% 90%

I can see why the Dr Todd and the rest of the board may have reacted to the upward trend of 2004 – 2007, however, hind sight shows us that waiting may have been better. Between 2000 – 2010 we have grown a net of 4 schools (excl. Rivers) students have grown over 16%, teachers and parapros by 11% and administration (office and school) by 7%.

You talk about underpaid teachers, I am married to one. Dr Todd did not suggest returning any of the $18M surplus built on the backs of our teachers and staff through pay cuts and furlough days, Terri Smith did. I have met Mrs. Smith once in my life and have no allegiance to her or any other board member. But Dr. Todd had an opportunity to openly fight for the teachers and he didn’t.

You are absolutely correct the teachers are underpaid but given the decision by the State of Georgia to not follow its own law and fully fund the QBE, how do we pay for it? The River’s money is capital paid by bonds and cannot be used for operations. In if bonds could be used for operations, borrowing money for pay raises is not smart in my opinion. To build a fund surplus and increase teacher compensation, the only real options are to maximize class size / close schools = less teachers, eliminate parapros, music, art, coaches supplements, and other programs other systems have already eliminated.

I was upset the board did not evaluate administrative costs in the last budget. In this budget there has been a significant right-sizing of administration including the elimination of one assistant superintendent. If you talk to a teacher you will learn that the thin blue line of administrators is stretched thin often forcing teachers to deal with more issues without the proper support for less pay and longer hours.
Please be sure I credited the whole board, administration, teachers, parents, and students for our success but I am not sure how you can give Dr Todd any more or less credit? Dr. Todd voted with the majority in the Rivers decision and opposed the E-SPLOST which has resulted in property tax relief and funding for tools such as computers, buses, and books. In fact it is indisputable E-SPLOST funds helped build the surplus.

I hope everyone checks out the AJC voter guide:
I appreciated getting the views of the candidates first hand as well as meeting both of them at the Rotary event.

My focus is our schools and maintaining the “Fayette Advantage”. The only thing me or my family gets out of ensuring a balance of facts about our schools are heard is to give glory to God and to try hard to support the excellent schools we already have. As for what my wife gets, she was moved to a trailer after the E-SPLOST passed so I fear if I do anything more for the schools she would be teaching in a tent.

Take Care and happy Fourth of July


suggarfoot's picture

Or you could say, THE RICH HUDDLED MASSES!



Sorry, but this info came right off the BOE site and I haven't run mine together like SULLIVAN to confuse anyone.

You built too many schools in the wrong places!

There have been 5 new elementary schools built, 1 middle school and 1 high school, plus class rooms added on to what we have

elementary schools
room for 10, 878 kids
enrolled 8, 900

EXCESS 1,979

middle schools
room for 6,815
enrolled 5,250

EXCESS 1,565

high schools

room for 8065
enrolled 7593



Straight off the BOE website 2009



kids enrolled..divided by....capcitiy.....= %

Braelin 568 kids enrolled divided by capacity 675 = .84%

Brooks 315 kids divided by capacity 525 = .60%

Birch 700 kids divided by cap 675 = 103%

Crabapple 565 kids divided by cap 800 = .70%

Hood 417 " divided by " 575 = .72

Huddleston 633 divided by 625 = 101%

Inman 539 divided by 663 = .81

Kedron 592 divided by 725 = .81

Cleveland 556 divided by 800 = .69

Minton 648 divided by 800 = .80

North Fayette 492 divided by 750 = .65

Oak Grove 485 divided by 725 = .66

Peachtree City 446 divided by 525 = .85

Peeples 751 divided by 800 = .94

Spring Hill 556 divided by 800 = .69

Tyrone Elm 329 divided by 450 = .73

Rivers 40 divided by 660 = .06



.....THAT COMES TO .73




Birch 103% true, but there sits little Tyrone at 73% and could have taken some of the kids WITHOUT REDISTRICING whos parents volunteered to take them...but this opportunity was never offered to Birch parents.

Now, look where there is more crowding and no room in the elementary schools soak up the extra kids.

Huddleston 101%

Peeples .94%

Was there a clamor to fix them? No! For the 1st time in my life, I've seen the rich in huddled masses!

But there was a clamor to put Rivers in the cow pasture

Bennetts Middle school is at .48%

But wait...what do these two schools have in common? One is empty, the other pretty close, but what else?

They both sit on the bypass route!

So what have you done for the overcrowded schools? NOTHING!

Taxpayers money was used to build schools on the bypass and not help their children's overcrowding!

The children that needed it most, what did you do for them?

What did you do for the kids in Peeples and Huddleston?

Oh I forgot, they aren't on the bypass!

What did the taxpayers children get out of Rivers? Rivers with 40 kids and room for 600-660?

Shame Shame!

suggarfoot's picture

With all valid questions you’ve been asked, rather than answer those, you are still attacking Dr Todd with suppositions, rather than facts.

Direct quotes of ALL of Gail Onesi’s letter were again posted for you showing nothing stated about redistricting, nothing.

But the FEAR of redistricting is what you are pedaling rather than FACTS isn’t it?

Question 1. In your estimation, what is the ratio of children to capacity in a school, ( Rivers) that has about 40 kids, but is suppose to have 600?

Question 2. Where in the letter was redistricting mentioned? Quote it

Question 3. You state “Our schools are located in Neighborhoods that seek to minimize transportation time”. The question was asked of you, what mysterious neighborhoods?

As stated, Rivers Elementary is

4.3 miles for the closest city limit of Tyrone

5.2 from Fayetteville

8.5 from Peachtree City

So again the unanswered question, what neighborhoods are you using for Rivers and minimizing transportation time?

Question 4. What is your logic in crediting the Smith/Smola overbuilding and test scores? How is that responsible for the test scores? Still no answer

Question 5. How is Smola’s next building project, a magnet high school going to effect the test scores of the schools these children are pulled from?

Mr Sullivan, you are still not answering the questions, nor giving direct quotes. But what you are doing is still making suppositions.

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