Four speakers at a June 20 meeting of the Gainesville school board expressed concerns about the Enota Multiple Intelligences Academy reconstruction project.
Gail Ingram said she thought the process for deciding to build a new school had been “too fast” and did not have enough comment from community participation.
Carl Rogers questioned the constitutionality of the wording that was approved in the ESPLOST VII referendum in March 2015.
Susan Brooksher said she believes the school district has not given proper emphasis to preserving the Enota garden. She also questioned the fairness of the survey given May 23.
Ginny Early said she believed the district violated its district charter in seeking community and governance views about the proposed school.
Complaints were registered at a board meeting June 30 that the speakers had not received a response to their comments.
Brett Mercer, vice chair who conducted the June 20 meeting, told the audience the school district would have a response in a week.
The letters to the speakers are dated June 27, but Mercer said at the June 30 meeting they had not been sent because all board members had not approved them. The district also sent lengthy documents about the Enota project and discussions with the letters.
The letters to Ingram and Brooksher refer to documentation about the project.
The letter to Brooksher also says, “We further ask for consideration of the possibility that the Enota faculty and staff have responded in a genuine manner and have only been asked to provide sincere feedback for the purposes of making informed decisions.”
The letters to Rogers and Early include comments about their specific complaints.
All four letters were from Superintendent Wanda Creel.
Early told the board she believes the charter requires more consultation and review by the school’s governance council than has been done.
Creel’s response says the board “seeks recommendations and works in collaboration with a governance council ... but ultimately is responsible for making final decisions.”
The letter notes “most every element” in a five-page document dated Dec. 14, 2015, from Early and Juli Clay, chair of the governance council, “has been incorporated into the design of the proposed preliminary Enota renderings.”
The document “was generated by Enota after a visit to Fair Street,” Creel said.
Creel asked the governance council to gather input.
“The request was made solely to ensure that all individuals that needed to be a part of the conversations were included. It is believed that instead of being received in the spirit in which the request was given, that feelings were hurt and have never been repaired,” Creel writes.
“Most every element requested (by the faculty) has been incorporated into the design,” and architect meeting minutes “clearly indicates that the incorporation of a garden has been clearly communicated and included from the beginning,” the letter says.
Creel’s letter to Rogers cites the language for the referendum. It includes “the necessity of acquiring, construction and equipping new schools.” She also noted a study of the district’s buildings and debt was conducted.
Creel adds the language in the referendum is the “same language used in the ESPLOST IV referendum and ballot vote. ESPLOST IV funds were used to build the new Fair Street School. The ESPLOST IV referendum did not include language regarding tearing down the original Fair Street building on the site.”
She also cites a legal opinion from Cory Kirby and Treadwell Syfan that “there is no legal requirement that the ballot question and the referendum provide every detail required for the construction of a new school.”
Rogers told the board the information about the referendum included only renovation of the Enota building and did not mention demolition of the structure.
In the letter to Early, Creel also said continued suggestions and comment can be considered for the plans to build the new school.
“I would also offer that there is still a great deal of time for those conversations to continue. It does, however, mean that we have to join forces to be able to have those meaningful conversations.”