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Letter to the Editor: Why Does School Board Favor One High School Over the Other?

An Oconee County parent says there seems to be a culture of North Oconee High School first and Oconee County High School second.

Editor's note: Cecel Allee made the following comments during the Nov. 12, 2012 meeting of the Oconee County Board of Education.  She has elected to post them as a "Letter to the Editor" on Oconee Patch. Read the School Board's policy on public communication to the Board here. Click on the "Public Communication" subhead V-G.

Hi. I am Cecel Allee. My daughter, Logan, graduated from Oconee High in 2011 and is a sophomore at UGA , I have a son, George, who is a freshman at OCHS. My husband Jim and I moved to the area in 1999, and as graduates of UGA, we were determined to live in Five Points. Our realtor said no way. Y'all have to move to Oconee. The schools are amazing. We were sending the kids to Athens Academy but fell in love with Watkinsville and moved to Oconee anyway.

After middle school, Logan wanted to go to OCHS. We were reluctant, but we let her go. Things were great and she was happy. I remember, though, getting a text from Logan about a ceiling tile falling onto her head from one of the trailers where she attended class.   

I reassured her that this is Oconee, they will definitely fix that. This was around the same time John Osborne pitched his fit over the extracurricular facilities at North Oconee. I laughed and thought no way a brand new awesome school would receive additions before our aging, much more humble school was updated. I thought, surely, the Board would not spend our tax money on ancillary projects at North Oconee and let our kids learn in a facility that has no less than 5 leaks in the roof with buckets catching the water, that has a rat and roach infestation from a backing up sewage problem, has toilets that won't flush, unbelievably inadequate heat and cooling, dead and unpleasing landscaping, the list goes on and on.

I still had George at [Athens Academy], I let things go, didn't get involved, I stood on the sidelines.

The county went ahead with the 3+million dollar athletic projects at North Oconee and left OCHS with too many problems to list.

After investigating exactly how this all went down, I learned that North had a choice between a killer weight room or a field house. They chose the weight room, complete with running lanes. It rivals any college facility.

Please note, I am very happy that our county deems it necessary to go all out, first class for our kids. OCHS parents, local business and other donors provided the weight room for our boys, one that the entire school uses for classes. While NOHS receives tax dollars for more and more state-of-the-art facilities, OCHS is left to rely on parents and donations from local businesses for simple updates and renovations. OC parents are in the process of completing a $10,000 improvement to the boys basketball locker room. Not to mention the amazing job our Baseball Boosters have done. It almost feels as if not for OC parents, awesome local businesses and sponsors our kids would be left with nothing.

After the weight room at North was complete, that wasn't enough. A meeting of the board was called to approve construction of the 2 million dollar field house. Again, not begrudging North, happy for them to have it. However, very ashamed of a board that would approve such a measure when Oconee kids are learning in a much less safe, healthy and far inferior environment. Six dilapidated trailers adorn the side of OCHS and until recently housed several classrooms. Trailers are accepted for academics at OCHS, but unacceptable for athletics down the street. Really? MANY studies have shown aesthetics play a huge role in student performance, teacher morale and school culture as a whole. Are our kids less deserving?

I realize OCHS is getting a 20 year maintenance overhaul of the HVAC, plumbing, doors, among other things to be completed sometime between 2014 and 2018.....and is extremely happy to get it! I also understand improvements to our football field house are on the way.

We are awaiting specifics and feel like we are fighting a rival team instead of a public board to get what our kids deserve or to even find what the board intends to do or when they intend to do it.

It feels as if our tax dollars are being spent to cannibalize our own property values, after all, if you were moving to Oconee County and had kids, which side of the county would you move to? We know the answer, as of January 1 the entire board, our superintendent and our assistant superintendent will live on the north side of the county.

I recently met with Mark Channell to discuss the issues. He admonished me for not wanting the boys at North to have a field house among many other things. Which is definitely not true. He put words in my mouth and I felt like an enemy. The entire conversation was us and y'all as if we were from different counties. I guess the fact that our Oconee County fire department completely disrespected their own citizens and young students is just part of a bigger culture. I am astonished that our school board and county commissioners failed to address this situation. OCHS players, cheerleaders, and band members who have worked extremely hard and are between 14 and 18 years old deserve an apology from the leaders of our small community.

I am stunned over the last couple of weeks. I've been harassed and called everything under the sun for wanting to improve OCHS, not to take anything away from North. Again, I am happy that our county is capable of providing such first class facilities.

For the life of me, I can't understand the anger and the vitriol. It's not as if we want to dig stuff up, put it on a trailer and drive it down Hog Mountain Rd to OCHS. We only want whats fair and equitable.

I am here to let the board know that OC is galvanizing. I am also here to say that, my husband and I personally, will stop at nothing to figure out what has been going on here, to find out how to change the fact that we don't have district posts for school board, to find out what, if any, laws, including Title 9, are being broken, and why there seems to be a culture of North first and OC second.

Thank you for your time.

Stephanie Gross November 14, 2012 at 08:50 PM
On a thread on the Oconee Patch Facebook Page, Lisa writes,"as long as sports trumps education and brawn trumps brain this will not change. Very sad." See more comments here: http://www.facebook.com/OconeePatch?ref=tn_tnmn
Stephanie Gross November 20, 2012 at 07:10 PM
Readers of this letter might also be interested in this article: http://oconee.patch.com/articles/state-funds-requested-to-help-pay-for-oconee-county-high-renovations

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