School board member McClure blames the media for “hysteria” that followed a false threat at LCHS

Opinion

DAHLONEGA, Ga. – Something good might yet come from the hysteria caused by Lumpkin County School System’s failure to keep the public informed about a potential threat at Lumpkin County High School last month.

At Monday’s Board of Education meeting — despite board member Jim McClure’s attempt to scapegoat the media — other board members began to question how information is disseminated to the public.

First, it’s important to note that the threat — which was reported in the morning — turned out to be no threat at all. However, the first information the administration passed on to the public was not posted until late that evening on Facebook.

By that time Facebook had blown up with rumors of what had taken place. Sheriff Stacey Jarrard’s phone had also blown up with parents wanting to know what was going on. It was a question he could not answer because the school administration did not inform him.

Second, when the school system did issue a press release on Facebook, this is how it read:

“Today a Lumpkin County High School student alleged that another LCHS student made a threat to harm the school. Law enforcement and school administrators took swift action to isolate the student in question and to conduct a thorough investigation. Conclusion: There is no evidence that a threat was ever made. Rumors perpetuated on social media have caused concern in our community, so we wanted to share the facts.”

Not only was that information posted  many hours after the furor had erupted, it was factually incorrect. Sheriff Jarrard said he did not conduct an investigation until the next day.

As board member Craig Poore correctly stated during Monday’s meeting, “There are a lot of people who are not on Facebook who are being told hearsay and that is where we had our problem.” Therefore, Facebook is probably not the best choice for spreading the word.

School Superintendent Dr. Rob Brown estimates that it takes between two and two and a half hours for a robo call to go out to all recipients and the administration had not completed its “investigation.”

Board member Jim McClure said, “If you put something out and it’s late in the evening… I think it was the right call not to do an all-call because who wants their phone ringing at 11:30 saying there was a rumor of a threat to the school. I wouldn’t want to be woke up to that, especially with it being a rumor.”

Apparently a lot of folks do. Jarrard said concerned parents were calling him until about 2 a.m.

But the point is, a robo call should have been issued immediately.

The public could have been informed and Facebook would not have blown up with a lot of misinformation. That could have been avoided by a robo call that simply stated:

The Lumpkin County School System has just received a report that one Lumpkin County High School student overheard another student make a threat to harm the school. This has just now been brought to our attention so we cannot determine at this time if the report is credible. Because we take these reports seriously we are investigating and as soon as we have more information, we will keep everyone informed.

How hard is that?

Some board members were surprised to learn that the robo call system was being used to announce sports events, fundraisers and other special events.

“I didn’t realize we were using that system to announce basketball games and other things,” McClure said. “To me that would be a problem. I think it needs to be limited to official business. Maybe this is a learning experience for everybody and if we do have that situation again maybe we can make a decision earlier.”

Rather than learn from the experience, however, McClure chose to blame the media, specifically Fetch Your News.

“It also bothers me the media would assume the school board and school administration would do nothing,” he said. “That is ridiculous in itself. We need to have some common sense. If a little common sense was applied to the situation there would have been no hysteria at all.”

On that, we are in complete agreement. Hopefully, school officials will try that next time.

 

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that covers Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYN attracts 300,000+ page views per month, 3.5 million impressions per month and approximately 15,000 viewers per week on FYNTV.com and up to 60,000 Facebook page reach. If you would like to follow up-to-date local events in any of those counties, please visit us at FetchYourNews.com

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School board’s decision to walk out on Monday’s public hearing was grossly irresponsible

Opinion

The Lumpkin County Board of Education’s decision to skip out on a public hearing last week was grossly irresponsible. It demonstrated a callous disregard for the citizens who voted them into office.  There is also a question of the legality of the meeting since a quorum was not present.

The hearing was conducted Monday, Aug. 13 and was advertised in the local newspaper as a public hearing on a tentative tax increase. Public hearings afford citizens the opportunity to speak on a particular issue and they have every right to expect their elected officials will listen.

School board members failed spectacularly to meet that expectation when they scurried into a backroom and allowed Superintendent Dr. Robert Brown to conduct the hearing in their absence.

Asked about the board’s refusal to listen to the citizens, Brown mistakenly stated, “The board is not required to be present. (Public hearings) are for the superintendent to receive comments from the public.”

Public hearings are informational. Their purpose is for citizens to become aware of what their elected officials are doing and for the elected officials to become aware of the public’s sentiment. That awareness is destroyed if elected officials refuse to listen to the people. It causes citizens to wonder if their trust in their representatives has been misplaced.

School board member Craig Poore took to Facebook over the weekend to blame the local media for disseminating “misleading information” and “ill-informed citizens” for not understanding the board’s actions.

In defending the board’s refusal to hear public comments last week, Poore said, “Monday during the hearing we were in executive session and had further business to attend to so we sent our representative to the meeting to report back to us.”

That excuse does not pass the smell test.

Every other school board in the state of Georgia is capable of holding an executive session and public hearing on the same night. They simply open the public hearing, listen to the citizens, close the hearing then go into executive session. It’s not that difficult.

Poore continues his Facebook rant by suggesting citizens,Come by the tire store and sit down with me let’s talk about the issues, or call me, email, or just stop me in Walmart. Hey that’s my job it’s not going to bother me.”

He also states: “What we need as a community is options to offset tax revenue loss.”

No, Mr. Poore, what we need is a school board whose members don’t run and hide from citizens who wish to speak to them at a public hearing.

Author

School board a no-show at public hearing

News

DAHLONEGA, Ga. – Public hearing or public embarrassment?

The Lumpkin County School Board advertised for a public hearing and invited citizens to speak about a tentative tax increase last Monday then declined to listen to a single word they had to say.

Four of the five board members were present when the work session started. Mera Turner was absent. But before the public hearing started, the four disappeared into a backroom and did not emerge until the public hearing ended.

Superintendent Dr. Robert Brown conducted the public hearing, despite the fact that a quorum was not present. Three speakers rose to be heard in a room absent of their elected officials

Questioned about the highly unusual situation Brown defended the board. “The board is not required to be present,” he said. (Public hearings) are for the superintendent to receive comments from the public.”

Some would argue that public hearings are for citizens to address their elected officials and for those officials to consider what the citizens have to say.

Dahlonega Mayor Sam Norton said, “It doesn’t make much sense for your elected officials not to be there for a public hearing. It defeats the purpose. The reason for you to have a public hearing is to gather public input. It’s an information opportunity not only for the public to be aware of what you’re doing but for you to be aware of public sentiment.”

In a Facebook posting Saturday, school board member Craig Poore said, “Just because I was not at one meeting does not mean that community input was not important to me. Monday during the hearing we were in executive session and had further business to attend to so we sent our representative to the meeting to report back to us.”

But that does not pass the smell test.

School boards, county commissions and city councils all across Georgia routinely hold public hearings on the same day as executive sessions. They simply open the public hearing, listen to citizens’ comments, close the public hearing then go into executive session. It is not that difficult. Monday’s public hearing lasted only about half an hour.

Poore continued his Facebook rant by inviting citizens to “Come by the tire store and sit down with me let’s talk about the issues, or call me, email, or just stop me in Walmart. Hey that’s my job it’s not going to bother me. I always appreciate people taking interest in our schools and children.”

One county official who asked not to be named said the meeting was not a legal meeting because no quorum was present when the public hearing was held. If he is right, any action taken at the meeting can be rescinded, and fines could be imposed on the board as well as the individual members.

The same official added, “I’ve seen these things done right and I’ve seen them done wrong. Sometimes they get called out on them but most of the time they just keep on moving and no one knows the difference. I don’t think that is right.”

 

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that covers Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYN attracts 300,000+ page views per month, 3.5 million impressions per month and approximately 15,000 viewers per week on FYNTV.com and up to 60,000 Facebook page reach. If you would like to follow up-to-date local events in any of those counties, please visit us at FetchYourNews.com

 

 

 

 

 

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