Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Ware Magnet Staff Told to Pack Up; Protesters Say That Should Wait until Referendum

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Ware Magnet Staff Told to Pack Up; Protesters Say That Should Wait until Referendum

Article excerpt

Byline: TERESA STEPZINSKI

Ware County school system officials have told Ware Magnet School staff to box up or remove their personal belongings to be ready for reassignment should county voters refuse a July 20 referendum to keep the top-ranked high school open.

State law allows the school system to take such preliminary steps, its lawyer Cory Kirby said in a Thursday letter responding to concerns raised by Citizens United for Excellent Schools, a group working to keep Ware Magnet open.

In a May 11 letter to Kirby, lawyer Jeff Helms said the grassroots organization believes that Superintendent Joseph Barrow and the school board were proceeding to close the school and reassign its staff without waiting for the referendum's outcome.

What may be the last Ware Magnet class to graduate from the 477-student science and agriculture-based school will receive their diplomas tonight.

Barrow told the Times-Union nothing the school system has done cannot be undone. He emphasized the school's teachers and administrators have contracts with the school system, not individual schools.

Kirby reasserted that position in his letter to Helms. He said the district "would not move school-owned equipment including books, technology, furniture and the like" from the school until after the referendum, assuming voters approve the board's decision to close it.

"I am happy to see that the superintendent and board understand they cannot nail the doors to the school house shut without the voters first having an opportunity to speak," said Helms.

Because he is out of town, Helms said he has not studied Kirby's letter.

When he returns to Waycross, he and the group will review it, then craft a response, Helms said.

"I'm sure Mr. Kirby and I will have some more discussions about the situation," said Helms.

A key issue is Barrow and the board's compliance with the state's Ethics in Government Law, he said.

The group wants to remind district officials "not to use taxpayer money to further any public campaign to convince the voters that they should ratify" the board's decision to close the school.

Kirby said the district has asked Magnet school educators "to either box up or remove their personal belongings. …

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