Valdosta City Council voted to oppose school consolidation

Mayor Sonny Vickers said he thought it was important for children and grandchildren and proper for the City Council to take a stand against school consolidation, and City Manager Larry Hanson read the statement (transcript appended).

City Council District 1 - James Wright
James Wright
District 1

City Council District 3 - Hoke Hampton
Hoke Hampton
District 3

City Council District 4 - Alvin Payton Jr.
Alvin Payton
District 4

City Council At Large - Ben Norton
Ben Norton
At Large

Didn’t Have
to Vote:
Valdosta Mayor - Sonny Vickers
Sonny Vickers
City Council District 6 - Robert Yost
Robert Yost
District 6

City Council District 5 - Tim Carroll
Tim Carroll
District 5

City Council District 2 - Deidra A. White
Deidra White
District 2
After very brief discussion, the vote was 4 for (James Wright of District 1, Hoke Hampton of District 3, Alvin Payton of District 4, and Ben Norton At Large) and 2 against (Robert Yost of District 6 and Tim Carroll of District 5).

That means Ben Norton changed his vote since since their last non-binding vote related to school consolidation. (Nonbinding because they didn’t have any authority to decide whether the referendum went on the ballot or not.) Council Deidra White of District 2 was absent throughout the meeting, which I find rather odd since she seemed quite aware when I spoke to her the previous day that this vote was going to occur. Back in August she voted against putting the referendum on the ballot. Yes, I know the motion was not exactly the same, so the votes are not exactly comparable. In any case, this time there was no tie and thus no need for the (new) mayor to break a tie.

Here’s the video:

Valdosta City Council voted to oppose school consolidationo
education, consolidation, resolution,
Regular Session, Valdosta City Council (VCC),
Valdosta, Lowndes County, Georgia, 6 October 2011.
Videos by Gretchen Quarterman for LAKE, the Lowndes Area Knowledge Exchange.

Here’s the statement transcribed as accurately as I could from the video:

Position Statement on School Consolidation

WHEREAS the subject of school consolidation has been discussed for many years in Valdosta and Lowndes County at various community meetings and retreats and has been formally studied on more than one occassion, and

WHEREAS the City of Valdosta does not oppose the concept of consolidation, and

WHEREAS most school system and government consolidations have directly involved the governing authorities themselves from the outset of the effort, and

WHEREAS most consolidations provide a specific and detailed plan whereby voters could make an informed decision, and

WHEREAS most consolidations have an agreed-upon charter which spells out the details of the consolidation plan so that an informed vote can be made, and

WHEREAS most consolidations are voted on by all of the citizens affected by the decision, and not just a portion of them, and

WHEREAS voters in unincorporated Lowndes County, Hahira, Lake Park, Dasher, and Remerton will not be allowed to vote, and

WHEREAS there are many unanswered questions, such as representation, number of school board seats, school districts, continuance or elimination of programs, use of facilities potential tax consequences, for which there are no answers and no specifics on which to base an informed decision, and

WHEREAS both the Valdosta and Lowndes County school systems are financially viable and well-managed by their respective boards with competent staff, and

WHEREAS any plan of consolidation should be built from the ground up involving and including all stakeholders and affected parties in the process, and

WHEREAS the Mayor and City Council are strong advocates of the right of citizens to vote, however the absence of knowledge as to the consequences of voting for a plan that does not exist could be severe, and

WHEREAS if the citizens of Valdosta vote to give up the Valdosta City School System Charter with no details or plan on which to base an educated vote, under Georgia state law the city voters will not have the right to vote to recreate the City school system if they do not like the plan that will eventually be created and implemented, and

WHEREAS the Mayor and Council believe that when asked to vote for something as important as school consolidation all voters of the city and county should be allowed to vote, and a specific plan to include implementation should be presented to them to vote upon,

NOW THEREFORE the Valdosta City Mayor and Council, while not opposing the concept of consolidation, and strongly favoring the right of all affected citizens to vote, hereby opposes the current proposal because there is no plan, and one half of the community is prohibited from voting on a decision that affects the entire community and its future.

SO APPROVED this sixth day of October 2011.

PS to all elected and appointed local governmental bodies: if you’re going to vote on a statement to affect public opinion, would it kill you to have it ready to go up on your website very shortly after you vote on it? The Valdosta Board of Education did so quite rapidly. Lowndes County Board of Education did after a few days. If the Valdosta City Council has done so even yet after three days, I can’t find it, and I hope somebody will point it out. I mean really, public officials, if little old LAKE is faster than you….