WARRENTON, Ga. --- After months of turmoil and bad news, the Warren County Board of Education made a significant change of guard during their regular board meeting Monday night.
Board Chairwoman Clara Roberts and Vice Chairman Cecil Brown both resigned their positions as leaders of the school board, making way for new leaders to assume those roles.
"We will go back and tell the state board that actions taken this evening are indicative that you are making progress," said Brad Bryant, a liaison for Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue. "At the end of this long journey, we will hold Warren County up as a beacon of what a district can look like in the State of Georgia."
The move came after the school board underwent two investigations by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, was put on probation, then notified the system would lose its accreditation by July 30 if certain changes were not made in the governance of the board.
After public town hall meetings and work planning sessions did not bring any accord to the situation, Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue sent two liaisons to work with the board members and Warren Schools Superintendent Carole Jean Carey. Even before the changes were made, the liaisons -- Mr. Bryant and Jim Bostic, saw a positive light in the local situation.
"This is only our second time to serve in such capacity," Mr. Bryant said. "The first being in Clayton County. The difference is that in Clayton, there was little evidence of student learning was taking place. What we've seen today is not the situation here. You have upward projection in student outcome and achievement and willingness in the community to be involved."
After the resignations, board member Charles Culver requested to make a statement during discussion time. Dr. Culver said he was concerned with the division of the board that resulted in the upcoming accreditation loss. He said he met with Mrs. Roberts and Mr. Brown and "said we must do what's good for the boys and girls of Warren County."
He also spoke of how he was influenced by members of the community who questioned him on some split votes, particularly his vote against a charter school.
"In hind site, I can say that was not the thing to do," he humbly admitted. "We need to move ahead and give our support to the boys and girls... I am going to make sure I do what I was elected to do."
Mrs. Roberts also spoke out during discussion, saying she was saddened to resign her position, but was looking for the greater good.
"I truly feel tonight, now with the attention off of me, that we can now focus on what I love and have dedicated my life to -- these children... being taught a higher level of thinking."
As the board's parliamentarian, Assistant Superintendent Faye Montgomery assumed the role of moderator as the board voted on new leaders.
Board member Randy Morris nominated Gwendolyn Tucker to be the chairwoman. No other nominations were made for the position and the vote passed unanimously.
"Thank you," Ms. Tucker said. "I pray we will be able to work together and refocus our attention on our students. That is why we ran for office in the first place."
Dr. Culver nominated Mr. Morris to be vice chairman, and Mrs. Roberts nominated Dr. Culver for the same position.
"I respectfully decline," Dr. Culver said.
With no other nominations, the vote passed unanimously, and Ms. Tucker and Mr. Morris became the chairwoman and chairman respectfully.
Mr. Bostic advised the board members that they must continue to work on the requirements of the SACS review team and document each action. He said they may request the SACS team return in a few months and conduct another investigation before the July 30th deadline. For two years following that time, Mr. Bostic said the board must document their actions and show that they have not gone back to "the old way of doing things."
"I am pleased with the good work that's been done here, and I look forward to being back with you in the months to come," Mr. Bostic said.