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Gainesville school board faces Enota, Creel contract questions
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School board meeting

When: 6 p.m. Tuesday

Where: 508 Oak St., Gainesville

Questions about a new school for Enota will continue at the Gainesville Board of Education’s work session Tuesday night. Questions largely have been raised by opponents of the plans discussed thus far, but board members, not members of the public, will ask about those plans.

Another item for the meeting is a proposed agreement with Superintendent Wanda Creel on her contract. That is not specifically on the agenda, but it is listed as a topic for a closed session and could be brought up under personnel.

A proposed new building for Enota has been controversial since last winter when a plan was presented that would level the building site, destroying the Smartville garden at the school.

Criticisms of the process to develop plans and about the board’s lack of timely response to questions about the proposals have continued, and escalated, through the spring and summer.

The board agreed at its Aug. 13 retreat that it would ask representatives of the architectural and engineering firms to come to a meeting and discuss questions. However, Brett Mercer, vice chair of the board, emphasized the discussion would be among the firm representatives and board members.

He suggested the board meet with the architectural and design company officials and schedule a later meeting for community comment. The forum for community members has not been scheduled.

Speakers at board meetings have said the process for a new school should be delayed and a committee named to meet with architects and school officials about a new building. They have referred to a committee that worked on the new Fair Street school as a model. It met a number of times with architects as the plans were developed.

The only building plan presented for a new school calls for leveling the property, which would fill in the current playground and destroy the garden.

After objections to that were raised last spring, architects said the main portion of the garden could be preserved and a retaining wall built around it. That would create a space of about 25 feet between the garden and new school, according to the architects.

Questions also have been raised about the plan for a retention pond on the site. Opponents have said it is too large and has too steep of a bank. Part of the plan for the pond includes removing trees on the rear of the property.

Details for replacing those have not been outlined clearly, but opponents of the plan contend they will have to be replaced — at about the same size.

The budget includes about $100,000 for “landscaping.” Opponents of the plan have said it would require replacing far more trees, and at larger sizes, than the budget would cover.

Board member Willie Mitchell said at the board retreat he would not agree to the plan that calls for leveling the site. He said the Fair Street building was constructed with a playground that also is not on level ground, and it has worked for two years.

School officials said in the spring a new school needs to meet federal requirements for handicapped accessibility and should increase parking and relieve problems with traffic at the school.

The initial plan had more than 200 parking spaces planned for the school. The school now has about 100 spaces.

Expected to attend the meeting Tuesday are architects Becky Pope and Robby Tieman of Lindsay, Pope, Brayfield, Clifford & Associates, and Jeff Dyer, Steve Duren and Kevin Whigham of McFarland Dyer & Associates, an engineering and planning firm.

The Creel contract, and superintendent evaluation, has been the subject of several closed sessions of the board. The latest was Aug. 25 when the board held a nearly two-hour closed session. The board also met for more than two hours about Creel at its retreat Aug. 13.

Board chairwoman Delores Diaz said after the Aug. 25 meeting the board had agreed with Creel about the contract, but it would be voted on at this Tuesday’s meeting. Under Georgia law, the board is allowed to discuss a superintendent’s contract in a closed session, but it must be approved in an open meeting.

A specific item about Creel or the contract is not on the agenda. Diaz said by email Thursday that she intended for it to be on the agenda, and that the agenda might be revised. It had not been changed as of Friday afternoon. It could be added or brought up under personnel, if the board chooses to do so.

Creel received a three-year contract when she took the position as superintendent. The third year started July 1. Her contract ends June 30, 2017.

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