The Dade County Board of Education held their regularly scheduled meeting on Monday, November 14th. j

During the meeting, Principal Charity Barton received a certificate on behalf of Davis Elementary school for receiving the designation as a Title I Distinguished School. This honor is only awarded to the top 5% of schools in Georgia, based on reading and math scores.

Following the certificate presentation, Superintendent Josh Ingle covered, in-depth, the financial reports for the Dade County School System for the rolling ten years (2017-2027) as they directly affect budgetary decisions the school board makes. (The entire budget breakdown may be viewed in the video below.)

Public Input followed; four members of the Davis community elected to speak during this section on their thoughts about the school board’s delay (and, according to that meeting’s agenda, postponement) of construction on Davis Elementary. The first speaker, Dusty York of Davis, wanted to remind the school board that the “Rock Building” had been neglected to the point of condemnation before it was decided that it would be torn down in order to build a new building. After, Joshua Parham gave an impassioned speech about having to drop his children off at a school with a tarp where a wall should exist.

John Davidson spoke next about the history of Davis School, following his statements with his concern that the Davis rebuild had been shelved in order to fund a multipurpose athletics building for Dade County High School. Davidson claimed that the school board had swapped the North Dade land with the County for land that would, once the contract had ended, have become the property of the school system anyway. This claim was later refuted by multiple members of the school board. Johnny Warren (Trenton) stated that the only contract he had seen was that the aforementioned land was to be rented to the school board, who could not afford the land for a football field and bus barn at the time, for a period of 50 years at $1 per year. This contract had been reportedly put in place by the sole County Commissioner at the time, the late Mr. Larry Moore.

The last speaker was County Commissioner Philip Hartline, who represents Sand Mountain and the Davis area. Hartline, who had brought up this matter at the November 3rd County Commission meeting, stated that the school board was collecting enough money from ESPLOST to be able to pay for the construction, had they rolled back the funds in order to be able to prioritize Davis. Hartline stated that a board member (whom he did not name) claimed, “they’ve gotten by without it for three years… I don’t see why they need it.” Hartline claimed that no, Davis has been waiting patiently for the school board to move forward on the project.

After the Public Input section, citizens were instructed firmly by Board Chair Carolyn Bradford (Lookout Mountain) that members of the public were no longer allowed to speak. On multiple occasions, Bradford stated, “This is our meeting” to the members of the attending public. The public was also criticized on multiple occasions by members of the board for not attending more school board meetings. “I think it’s a shame that it takes all this to get this many people to our board meeting,” said Daniel Case (North Dade).

Case spoke at length; stating that the responsibility of the school board is to be good stewards of the dollars of all Dade County taxpayers. Case stated that he wished they could move forward immediately with the plans that were originally laid out to rebuild at Davis. However, continued Case, “we have to consider the other 75% of taxpayers who are not here tonight because they’re expecting us to do what’s necessary to fund this.”

Case, Warren, and Dr. Jayne Griffin (At-Large) then held a brief discussion, in which they included multiple members of the public, about their feelings on moving forward with Davis as a priority as soon as new construction was able to be started again. These speaking members of the board assured the gathered crowd that Davis has been, and will be the first priority for renovation as soon as the funding arrives. Dr. Griffin further clarified that the immediate needs in the Davis cafeteria, as well as the tarped wall, are being addressed already.

The school board moved to a vote; with the recommendation by Superintendent Josh Ingle to postpone Davis and “all new construction.” The board voted for postponement 4-1; Jennifer Hartline (Sand Mountain District) was the sole dissenting vote.

by Orey Yates