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Gainesville school board leader explains meeting where Enota decision was made
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Gainesville’s Board of Education discussed the Enota Multiple Intelligences Academy building project at a June 2 called meeting because “new information from the faculty survey was made available to us,” board chairwoman Delores Diaz said Monday by email.

“The superintendent had recently obtained this staff input,” Diaz wrote. A survey of faculty members was taken May 23, according to the summary from the school district.

According to the faculty comments, Superintendent Wanda Creel, Diaz and Brett Mercer, the board’s vice chairman, attended the May 23 meeting.

“In light of that and out of respect for the needs of the faculty, students and their families who are most affected by the transition and construction, it was felt that we needed to give them a response as soon as possible so that they could plan over the summer,” Diaz said.

The board agreed June 2 to continue with the current plan for a new building but delayed the start until May 2017. The plan first called for students and staff to move from the Enota building to Centennial Arts Academy.

A new, 60-classroom building would then be built on the Enota site, and school would resume there in August 2018.

The new school for Enota became controversial in February when plans were first announced publicly because it would destroy the Smartville garden that wraps around one end of the school.

David Hudson, an Augusta attorney who represents the Georgia Press Association, said school boards are supposed to include all items known on meeting agendas. Yet he added the board has the authority to add items to a meeting “if it’s necessary.”

The question, he noted, is whether the Enota topic was “necessary” or whether it could have been held until a regularly scheduled meeting “when the public could have known about” the item and offer comments. The public notice for the June 2 meeting, which was issued June 1, said, “The Gainesville City Board of Education will have a called/executive session meeting on Thursday, June 2 at 8:30 a.m. at the school board office located at 508 Oak Street. The board will immediately go into executive session to discuss real estate matters.”

The next regularly scheduled meeting of the board was June 6.

Supporters of the garden spoke at the board’s May 16 meeting and asked that a decision on the new building be delayed and that a solution be sought that would preserve the garden.

At the May 16 meeting, an update on building projects provided information on the addition at Centennial and a new school at Mundy Mill subdivision, but it included nothing about Enota. Until that meeting, the Enota facility was part of discussions about building projects.

Diaz noted only school board members and school officials attended the June 2 meeting.

She said she added the item to the called meeting agenda because the survey results were new and she believed a quick response was needed.

Asked about motions made and votes taken by the board at the June 2 meeting, Diaz replied, “When the minutes of the 6-2 meeting are approved, I will be happy to answer this question.  They are not public record until any corrections are made and they are approved. “

The survey included two questions: Students will move into the transition school in December 2016 or May 2017 and “maintain the current garden with a retaining wall” or “have a tailor-made garden for the new school.”

Nearly 65 percent of the teachers responding voted to make the move in December, but the board agreed to delay it until May 2017. Ninety-eight percent of those responding agreed with a “tailor-made garden” for the new school.

That term has not been part of the discussions before, and school officials said early in May that little money is available for re-creating the garden. It was noted at a meeting May 2 that the estimated budget for the new school includes $100,000 for “landscaping.” Some of that might be used for helping start a new garden, it was noted.

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