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Georgia editorial roundup

July 17, 2019

Recent editorials from Georgia newspapers:

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July 16

The Brunswick News on Gov. Bryan Kemp’s education initiatives:

When then-candidate Brian Kemp was running for governor, he pushed educational priorities. In less than a year in office, Kemp has held up his promises when it comes to education initiatives.

Thanks to Kemp’s legislative efforts in this year’s session, teachers across the state are getting a $3,000 raise. There is also a $30,000 grant for every public school to put toward campus safety and security.

Kemp discussed educational issues ... on Jekyll Island at the 45th annual Georgia Association of Educational Leaders summer conference. GAEL is made up of educational leaders from around the state and serves as the statewide umbrella organizations for professional affiliate associations. They presented Kemp with an award for his education advocacy.

“Folks, we have never ever had anybody who spoke up for public education the way that Brian Kemp does,” said Jimmy Stokes, outgoing executive director of GAEL.

The award was well-deserved. In his speech to the conference, Kemp showed he understands the pressures educators around the state are facing.

“All of you teach, mentor and nurture our students, who in turn join our world-renowned work force, lead our companies and work in many different ways to change our communities for the better in ways that honestly cannot be measured,” Kemp said. “And from the bottom of my heart, I want to continue to thank you for that.”

We want to second the governor on that thank you. Our educators are tasked with teaching, motivating and mentoring today’s youth through what is a growing minefield of potential stumbling blocks.

It’s not a job educators take for the money, they do it because they are called to it. Being an educator requires a combination of knowledge, empathy and authority that is hard to find in today’s world.

The governor has played a big role early in his administration in making it easier for educators to do their jobs while making sure our students have access to the best education possible. He has empowered local school districts and provided resources to address concerns like student mental health and safety.

Kemp said at the conference that he plans to name a citizens review panel that will participate in the standards review process. That adds another layer of accountability when it comes to alleviating any issues with state standards.

The governor has kept his promise when it comes to education, and if he continues to live up to his mandate, you will be hard-pressed to find a better educational system in the country than we could have right here in Georgia.

Online: https://thebrunswicknews.com

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July 16

Savannah Morning News on The University of Georgia’s upcoming football season::

The canine affinity for red meat is well known.

University of Georgia Football Coach Kirby Smart gave the state’s dogs — the woofing fans of the team — a mouth-watering feast ... at the Southeastern Conference Media Days.

Instead of following the coaching bible and expressing cautious optimism about the upcoming season, Smart did the impossible in heightening fan expectations with his comments about the 2019 Bulldogs.

“Although (a) 24-5 (record) the last two seasons is good, it’s not good enough. It’s not where we expect to be,” Smart said.

Consider that Georgia is the two-time defending SEC East Division champion, reached the national championship game two seasons ago and started last year 11-1.

The bar is set high, and the Bulldogs have changed offensive and defensive coordinators and absorbed the loss of several players at key positions since they last played a game.

Yet Smart, who talked extensively about confidence in his media day appearance, is salivating over his team.

Georgia opens the season Aug. 31 against Vanderbilt.

Online: https://www.savannahnow.com

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July 14

The Valdosta Daily Times on school board executive session laws:

School boards must be careful who they talk about and what they say when they are behind closed doors.

While the state of Georgia allows limited executive sessions to discuss personnel issues, it is very restrictive about just how far those talks can go.

Of course, other local government agencies should also be careful about personnel discussions but this matters most to our boards of education because it seems they go into executive session to discuss personnel at nearly every meeting.

By comparison, the county government with multiple departments and a large number of employees rarely goes into executive session to discuss personnel issues.

Why must the boards of education do it every month?

They are not required to, they are merely allowed to in certain circumstances.

Once they get behind closed doors, they are not free to talk about whomever or whatever they want to talk about.

They must limit the scope of those conversations.

Specifically, they are not allowed to receive evidence against an employee.

If they do receive evidence in a case against an employee in private, they are violating the Georgia Open Meetings Act and can face criminal prosecution and hefty fines.

The exception in the law that permits the closed-door executive sessions is very specific and very limited.

When it comes to the exception in the law that permits local government to discuss personnel in private, the law specifically says:

“This exception shall not apply to the receipt of evidence or when hearing argument on personnel matters, including whether to impose disciplinary action or dismiss a public officer or employee or when considering or discussing matters of policy regarding the employment or hiring practices of the agency. The vote on any matter covered by this paragraph shall be taken in public and minutes of the meeting as provided in this chapter shall be made available. Meetings by an agency to discuss or take action on the filling of a vacancy in the membership of the agency itself shall at all times be open to the public as provided in this chapter.”

So, interviewing witnesses regarding another employee’s behavior is not allowed behind closed doors.

Hearing arguments by staff, for example, that could lead to any disciplinary action or even the firing of a school system employee, cannot happen in an executive session.

If a school board is going to receive evidence on an employee’s behavior, demeanor or personal life, there must not only be due process, it must all happen out in the open.

That’s the law.

Furthermore, the chairman, the person presiding over the executive session, is required by the law to put an immediate stop to any discussions that stray out-of-bounds, and if members continue to talk about things not allowed behind closed doors, they must immediately adjourn.

Be careful what you say, when you say it and who you say it to, especially when you get behind closed doors.

Online: https://www.valdostadailytimes.com

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