A standing room only crowd lined the walls of the Dougherty County School System board room Wednesday as speakers voiced their opinions to the Board, pro and con, concerning a possible Albany College and Career Academy at Albany High School. The new charter school was defeated by a 4-3 vote.
ALBANY, Ga. — Murmurs of surprise rippled throughout a packed Dougherty County School Board meeting room Wednesday as the Board voted 4-3 to shoot down the proposed Albany College and Career Academy (ACCA) — with Board member Velvet Riggins casting the deciding vote.
The vote was racially split with Milton Griffin, James Bush, Anita Williams-Brown and Riggins voting against the charter school and David Maschke, Carol Tharin and Darrel Ealum voting for it.
Riggins was on the three-person committee appointed by the Board last year to help put plans for the ACCA together. Also on the committee were Darrel Ealum and Carol Tharin.
The issue took on a decidedly racial tenor during a ACCA steering committee presentation to the Board last Tuesday when Mt. Zion Baptist Church Pastor Daniel Simmons warned the Board that passage of “this plan will take us back to the days of Jim Crow.”
At a meeting with black ministers three days later, Superintendent Joshua Murfree, who initially was a strong supporter of the new charter school, backpedaled and assured the ministers that the ACCA would not be on Wednesday’s Board agenda.
On Wednesday, Board member David Maschke asked that the ACCA be placed on the agenda with the stipulation that the steering committee have a budget in place for review before the charter was sent to the state for approval on Aug. 1
Riggins made a motion to amend Maschke’s original motion to include a change in the way the ACCA’s directors — specifically reducing the number of directors nominated from the Albany Area Chamber and Economic Development Committee from four to two — and Maschke approved the amended motion.
But when Bush called for a vote, Riggins voted ‘no.’
“I had a problem with a review of the budget rather than approval, Riggins said after the meeting, explaining her ‘no’ vote. “We have a fiscal responsibility on this Board to spend the taxpayers’ money wisely.”
Riggins’ vote stunned Tharin and Ealum.
“It is a shame that a member of the Board of Education (Riggins) sat at every meeting saying ‘it’s all about the children’ time and time again,” said Tharin, “But when it comes time to put their vote where their mouth is, they don’t do it.”
Ealum was equally incensed.
“I am extremely disappointed,” said Ealum. “This was the first time that this community, business and education, had an opportunity to come together and create a paradigm shift in the way we educate our children, and we failed them.”
Prior to the vote, concerned citizens packed into the Board’s customary prebriefing and for the next two hours voiced opinions, both pro and con.
Simmons again was the last speaker to step to the podium, and pointed a finger at the Chamber.
“Not all in the Chamber have been supportive of the Dougherty County School System, except in the case of one superintendent,” said Simmons, in an apparent reference to former superintendent Sally Whatley.
In other business, the board OK'd a $116 million budget in a 6-1 vote. District 1 School Board representative David Maschke was the only opposing vote.
The plan does not include a tax increase.
In a preliminary vote on June 11, Maschke said he opposed the spending blueprint because it did not include information on spending controls and consultant fees.
The budget also reduces the number of employee furlough days to six from the 10 that employees had in FY 2012 that ends Saturday.