Really Clayton County?

August 4, 2014 14:22 pm

by Eric The Younger · 9 comments

I shouldn’t be surprised. Utopian Academy applied three times to Clayton County Public Schools to become a charter school. They were subsequently denied three times. Most of their petitions, not even read by board members.

After that third denial Utopian applied to the new State Charter Schools Commission. Of the 16 petitions that year, Utopian was the only one to be chartered by the Commission.

Now Clayton County Government strikes  to deny students and parents an alternative. #shameful.

Maybe there needs to be a reminder that the Charter School Amendment passed in Clayton County. Or that it passed locally with almost 72% of the vote. Or that it passed with the one of the HIGHEST PERCENTAGES IN THE STATE. Just sayin’. It seems to me that the residents of Clayton County would really like some charter schools.

Video after the break.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

ryanhawk August 4, 2014 at 3:14 pm

School may have been cancelled, but these kids are learning a lesson that will last a lifetime.

As one of the adults (parent?) in the video said, the people blocking the schoolhouse door are “sick, evil, demented….”

Chris Huttman August 4, 2014 at 4:17 pm

They want MARTA too and you saw how much their arms had to be twisted for that to happen.

Lea Thrace August 5, 2014 at 9:11 am

A bit confused here.

As I read in the ajc, the hold up is with the fire marshall. Are we saying the school board is colluding with the fire department to prevent the school from operating? That’s a pretty serious charge.

Isnt it more likely that this is a communication issue between the state and fire department on regulations?

Ellynn August 5, 2014 at 2:03 pm

Fire Marshals can not issue out a occupancy certificate with out a vaid occupancy type for the buildings use. If the charter has a lease, but it’s for commerical use, not K-12 occupancy, the fire marshall can not legally allow occupancy. Additionally, with out a legal occupancy certifate, the students and staff will not be covered under the schools boards libility.

I see this often with chaters and private schools. Since they do not have to follow the State DOE rules, or fall under the unbrella of a local school systems general operations and regulations, they tend to overlook all the other dozen of state rules and requirements any K-12 school has to follow, like occupancy requirements, the building codes, the fire codes, insurance riders. fire drills, handicap access, etc… Either the powers that be for the charter have no clue what they need to do to house k-12 students, or the have a very bad lawyer and building consultant, because any one who does k-12 school buildings would know what hoops to jump through.

Lea Thrace August 5, 2014 at 3:44 pm

Thanks for the info Ellyn. It appears there is more to the story as I suspected.

http://www.ajc.com/news/news/clayton-charter-school-moves-closer-to-opening/ngt5m/

ryanhawk August 5, 2014 at 2:30 pm

The Clayton County Board of Education has not earned the benefit of the doubt in their dealings with this Charter School. The approvals required here are very easily approved and very often delayed unnecessarily by bureaucrats and the polticos pulling their strings.

Soon we will have a better view of what transpired, but if you want to speculate the simplest explanation is that the powers that be in Clayton County desired to continue creating problems for this Charter School and in fact did so.

Ellynn August 5, 2014 at 3:37 pm

Fire marshalls don’t normally whip out a ordinace or occupancy related issue (or order people out of a building) without due cause and a really strong code to back it up. They may error on the side of caution, but to issue a warning without due cause could lead to the Commisioner of Insurance relinquishing their status as an indepenant Authority Having Juristiction.

That is not to say they can’t be difficult, or take advantage of the code -but like any ‘trap law’, they have will have state code on their side. This could almost be an educational version of the trap laws being used in some states againest abortion providers. Regulate the building so you can’t open or operate it.

ryanhawk August 5, 2014 at 6:59 pm

Seriously Ellynn, no one is blaming the fire marshall who is just a pawn (however pliable) in the game. The most likely scenarios: 1) fire marshall told the charter administrators exactly what they needed to get his signature and the necessary docs were withheld by other bureaucrats, or 2) fire marshall withheld or delayed relevant information actively participating in a scheme to harrass and delay opening of the school.

Of course it’s also possible the charter admins were clueless as you claim and the fire marshall/Clayton BOE are blameless. I challenge you to follow up on the relevant facts and be accountable for your claims. I certainly will.

Leaving that aside, were you the Clayton BOE Chair or Superintendent how would you have utilized your authority to avoid the ugly reality of locking 200 children out of school on Monday?

Ellynn August 5, 2014 at 7:50 pm

It depends on why they were blocked out of the school. If the paperwork was out of order as I have read, letting the children in the school (and having something happen), could have lead to the lose of insurance coverage, and full liability placed on the school board (they own the building and in the end paid out by the tax payers). My first call as the director of the charter would have been to the State Fire Marshall’s office, to see if a verriance was allowable for a temperary occupancy, so long as the building is to all major life and saftety codes. If the building had issues with the sprinkler system, the fire alarms, or the exits out of the building, no one – not even the governor – was going to get the school open. If its a business licence, which dependant on the city ordiance may be required, I would have worked with the county (who pays the the local fire marshal), not the city to see if the would issue a temperary occupancy. As the director of the charter, I would have gone before the city to get a tempory ruling on whether I was required to have a liences by city code (not state). They should have the rules stating otherwise in their charters. If it’s city limits, it’s their issue.

You keep jumping through ever hoop they give you, because eventually the people who elected the hoop makers are going to hear from the voters that put them there.

It’s all about knowing which hoops.