Bartlett defends vote on center during meeting
by Marcus E. Howard
mhoward@mdjonline.com
May 06, 2012 12:45 AM | 6058 views | 58 58 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Alison Bartlett  (MDJ File / Todd Hull)
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WEST COBB — Cobb County school board member Alison Bartlett answered questions Saturday evening about her controversial vote to delay building a ninth-grade center at Harrison High School. However, she said afterward that few minds were likely changed.

About 100 people showed up at the public forum in the high school’s theater, including a number of students. Bartlett spoke for about 25 minutes before opening the one-hour meeting up to questions from the audience. There was loud grumbling when she told attendees their questions would only be taken via index cards and that they wouldn’t be allowed to speak.

Bartlett said she is perhaps the most fiscally conservative of the board’s seven members, which largely explained why she voted last March against Cobb Superintendent Dr. Michael Hinojosa’s recommendation to approve the $14.5 million construction of a ninth-grade center.

The Cobb School District’s central office recently projected that Harrison’s enrollment will drop from presently 2,044 students to 1,966 students next school year, while increasing at other high schools, especially in south Cobb, Bartlett said. Building the new center now would also negatively affect the district’s general fund, which is already facing a $62.4 million shortfall in Fiscal Year 2013, she said.

If the district can later afford it, she will support the construction of a Harrison ninth-grade center, she said.

“For me, the cost of this building is going to cost $133,000 – not including the kitchen – out of general fund every year to maintain,” Bartlett said.

“When I look at growth, it is not in this area. It is not in Hillgrove, Allatoona and Harrison. It is south of Macland Road and it is mostly in the Campbell/Osborne area. So for me, why am I building a building that’s going to cost more in general fund in an area that I don’t see growth coming in any projections?”

Some in the Harrison community have criticized Bartlett’s vote, particularly in light of the fact that she will soon represent the school on the board, after a new reapportionment map was approved. Board members David Morgan, Kathleen Angelucci and Tim Stultz also voted to delay the project.

Many of the questions, which were read aloud by Principal Donnie Griggers, criticized the board for voting to improve or expand facilities at other schools and not in this case.

“Are you going to vote down every project from now on that increases the general budget?” one question read.

“I typically do,” Bartlett said.

“Since you will represent Harrison in the future, how do you plan to restore support from us?” another question read.

“I do what I think is right,” Bartlett responded.

After the forum, James Bradley said he remained convinced that a new ninth-grade center should be built.

“I think that she is definitely going against what it is that the general board, the recommendations and all of the public feel about what should be done,” said Bradley, who has a child at Harrison and two more headed there.

“She’s kind of making waves when they don’t need to be made. Anybody who walks through his school in the middle of the day will see just how inadequate the facilities are and how difficult it is for the students to deal with.”

A group of Harrison juniors expressed concerns about the physical condition of their school, which they described as desperately in need of repair. They said they have friends who have been hurt on the school’s rugged track.

“Every school but ours is basically well renovated, has high technology in it and smart boards,” said Amber Maynard. “We don’t have those. We still have trailers outside.”

“I feel like (Bartlett) came with her mind made up,” Sarah Schwartz said. “I don’t think she was planning on really listening to what we had to say.”

Muna Calvert, a mother of a Harrison sophomore and two younger children, felt few people who showed up were persuaded to change their opinions on the matter. She isn’t certain a ninth-grade center is currently needed, but would like to see renovations to the existing school.

“(Bartlett) has already set her mind, and I don’t know that any of this is going to change it,” Calvert said.

School board Chairman Scott Sweeney and member Lynnda Eagle, who currently represents Harrison, have called a re-vote on the issue at Wednesday’s school board meeting.

If the board votes again on the building of a ninth-grade center, Bartlett said her vote will remain the same. She said following the meeting that few audience members, if any, had likely changed their opinions about the issue either.

“They want and feel like they deserve the ninth-grade center,” she said.
Comments
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Another Solution?
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May 07, 2012
Another solution would to VOTE NO to future SPLOST plans, and then take the money that we would have spent on SPLOST and donate to Harrison to get what we need and then the board would have no right to say no to any improvements that Harrison would need for example, the track improvements. If the football booster club can build the football club up, then why can't the Harrison community build Harrison up and the board can just continue on its agenda, whatever that might be. Harrison take back your school and build through fundraising, donations both personal and community. THEN STAND PROUD!

anonymous
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May 07, 2012
MDJ Please, Please show us the reapportionment map so all of us will know who among this group of people represents us and who will be as of election day. Hopefully some of us will have choices.
Just a thought....
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May 07, 2012
I have been to Harrison and I live in the district that Harrison draws it's student body from. Harrison, while maybe not a state-of-the art facility, is far from being the pit that many of you would describe. It is an immaculate facility with great teachers...and at the end of the day it is the teachers that make all the difference in the world. Perhaps we should stop focusing on the physical plant of Harrison and focus on the students and the teachers we have there. No one screams about the cuts to instructional time, or the increases to class sizes, or to the pay cuts the teachers endure year after year. No one focuses on getting funding for more AP classes at Harrison, or raising our test scores at Harrison. No, we seem to focus on the building and the sports fields and the fact that we have several trailers on campus. It is time for the CCSB to stop squandering our financial resources and it should start now. If the Harrison 9th grade center is the first project not to be built, then so be it. Remove all further building projects off the agenda as well. It is time to realize you cannot have everything you want unless you have a way to pay for it.

The overcrowding of Harrison is the result of poor planning and no changes being made to the zoning by the CCSD. If we look at attendance levels for ALL of our high schools in the county, we can distribute accordingly. But, with this, even more of the parents will be upset because they want their children at a specific school. There is no pleasing the parents of Cobb County with regards to the school building programs. One way we can stop this once and for all is to vote against SPLOST in the future and force the CCSB to balance their budget with the resources they have available.
School Advocate
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May 07, 2012
I agree what a lot of what you have written, but we need to focus on keeping "operational funding" and "captial funding separate". The money to build the 9th grade center is in the bank - resulting form the 1% promise sales tax that we all have been paying for a specific list of projects to include a West Cobb 9th Grade Center.

Now, if the board wants to change the criteria for capital building projects, then they need to go back and evaluate the other 9th grade centers, the magnets building, the new science buildings, the new band building, drama theateas, high school renovation, new elemenatry schoosl and all other captial projects that have a continuing support costs for heat/cool/clean and shut down some and restore the teacher ratios and such for classrooms.

The school board can only impact and deal with what they control - zoning, tax digest, state funding, federal funding etc are all out of the Boards control. The SPLOST is theirs to control -they created the project book, they prioritized the projects, they did the design, the propsoal and request for bid and now have the lowest bidder. And now they want a new 1% tax extension and yet are reneging on the promises of the old 1% projects - this is a total integrity void, a character flaw, a change in direction and a complete loss of trust of the Board by the Harrison School Community - stop building the band building at Lassiter, or the renovations at Wheeler, Pope and Walton or shut down the 9th grade centers at Osborne, South and North Cobb, disolve the magnet programs etc etc and see what the community response is ?
Bartlett=Dictator
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May 07, 2012
To all of the folks being so critical of Harrison, its parents and students - have you ever been to Harrison? It certainly does not "spoil" the students. Harrison continues to exceed because of its excellent students, teachers and great parental involvement. There are 11 trailers and it will still be well over capacity again next year.No school in South Cobb would ever be allowed to be in the condition of Harrison.

I also believe in being fiscally responsible ,but I also believe in following the law. I like many others thought that Bartlett simply wanted to move the 9th Grade Center to Hillgrove, like she proposed numerous times at board meetings. This is not the case - she wants to take the money that voters approved and alloted for the West Cobb 9th grade center and spend that money in South Cobb.
South Cobb Resident
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May 07, 2012
While I understand why the Harrison amiliea re upset, you are wrong to say "No school in South Cobb County would ever be allowed to be in the condition of Harrison."

Prior to completion of the 9th grade center at South Cobb, they had 18 trailers and there was no outrage by familes county wide. Clarkdale had over a dozen trailers with the 3rd and 4th grade meeting entirely in those trailers...and those trailers had been at that school for more than 10 years (longer than most of the West Cobb schools have even been in existence).

Harrison was founded in 1991, Hillgrove in 2006, Allatoona in 2008. South Cobb opened in 1952 and Osborn HS is the oldest high school in Cobb County. These schools are over 50 years old and to compare their facilities to those of the newer schools is almost comical if it wasn't sad.

You speak of the great parental involvment of these schools - they have sismilar percnetages of parental involvement but the per capita/household earning of families in West Cobb is higher so their booster and PTSAs do have more resources available to them. But that doesn't mean they don't have parent involvement. Many of these schools - like Mableton - are Schools of Excellence. These schools have a level of parental involvement that results in schools getting the improvements needed...just like the families of Harrison.

I wish you luck in getting the 9th Grade Center and hope they are able to get it built - but don't look down on the families and schools of Cobb County while you get it done.
You got it!
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May 07, 2012
@ South Cobb Resident

We voted for the referendum that included building a Ninth Grade Center at South Cobb and it was built. There was no dispute over it being built and it was supported by families in Post 1. No outrage was needed...taxpayers in Post 1 supported the building of your Ninth Grade Center.
Bartlett= Dictator
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May 07, 2012
I am certainly not criticizing the parents or students in South Cobb and I have no problem with the center that was built there. My dispute is with the fact the the voters were told that the SPLOST would be used for a 9th grade center in West Cobb, but now Bartlett says that money should be used in South Cobb rather than in West Cobb. I just want our elected officials to follow the law and I would like for my tax dollars to be used to make some improvements to my local schools as promised.
anonymous
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May 06, 2012
West Cobb 9th Grade Center; High School- That is what was advertised in SPLOST- not Harrison High School 9th grade center. if that was the intent, why didn't they say that? Yes, Harrison is crowded like alot of others. The best bet, and least popular is to redistrict and make sure ever classroom is utilized first, then build
Agreed
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May 07, 2012
We have room at certain schools, and although not a popular decision, we need to redistrict first. The CCSD is on hard financial times and more schools equates to more money needed for upkeep and staff. We just don't have the money. The board needs to cancel Clarkdale and redistrict properly. The kids and teachers can not continue to suffer. Next year we are looking at 32 kids in 4th and 5th grade classrooms. That is absurd!
anonymous
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May 06, 2012
When Bartlett is asked, “Are you going to vote down every project from now on that increases the general budget?”

Bartlett replies; “I typically do.”

Really now ???????? – Meeting minutes can be a pesky thing!

Bartlett did vote against the SPLOST III approved theater in Northeast Cobb at Lassiter HS twice so maybe that is her definition of typical, if not selective memory.

However;

Bartlett voted to approve the South Cobb ninth grade center.

Bartlett voted to approve the North Cobb ninth grade center.

Bartlett voted to approve the Wheeler High School modifications.

Bartlett voted to approve the new Mableton Elementary School.

Bartlett voted to approve the new Clarkdale Elementary replacement school.

Curiously, Bartlett abstained from approving the new East Side Elementary School, which she knows is a vote with the majority who approved the school construction 6-0.

Gee… Do all of these have an impact on the general budget?

That would be a big YES !!!!!!

Bartlett’s assertion fails miserably just like her flawed logic concerning the Harrison High School projects.

anonymous
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May 06, 2012
I think they need to find a way to build the center WITHIN THE BUDGET, but only AFTER they reevaluate how this center will best serve ALL of West Cobb and AFTER they have a better idea of enrollment numbers. In the meantime, if Harrison is so overcrowded redistricting should be considered, as some of the nearby schools are under capacity.
Cobb Tax Payer
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May 06, 2012
Bartlett has made some good points about being over budget and the repairs needed for safety reasons. Every school should require that all safety issues should be addressed immediately, which I hope the board will do ASAP.

However, Bartlett, along with the other board members, really think we, the taxpayers, are not paying attention:

1. She was elected chairperson without proper notice or attendance of ALL the board members.

2. She pushed to change the balance calendar after the previous board had voted to accept.

3. Bartlett and the other board members have not pushed Hinojosa or David Morgan to explain their involvement with Teach for America.

4. Bartlett and the board have not asked David Morgan to recuse himself on ALL charter discussions and votes.

5. The board members recently submitted their first of two annual superintendent evaluations for Cobb Superintendent Dr. Michael Hinojosa. I understand this is a personal matter, but we should know how the board feels about Hinojosa if he had done the job expected.

6. We are going to pay for conference in Florida when the board approves cutting 350 jobs to close deficit.

7. We only have 1 board member votes against the tentative budget when we have $100 million in reserves.

The board can have all the town hall meetings or ask for feedback from parents, teachers, taxpayers, but as they have shown in the past years - they will do what they want to do, never paying attention to what we say.

I just wait for the day the teachers, parents and all the taxpayers wake up and say enough is enough. We have voted in new members and nothing has really changed. There are issues with the board that need to be addressed and changed, but this starts at the top. We have a new superintendent that was approved within 2 weeks after submitting his resume. From his record so far, I think we have a major issue brewing for Cobb County Schools.

I look forward to seeing more taxpayers protesting and teachers pushing for change.

No change
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May 07, 2012
The public does not care or understand what it is like to teach. They remember the good old days when they were in school. Times have changed and we have many discipline issues and disruptions all day long. We no longer give tests from the books but have to create our own. We do not have time during the day to grade papers or complete lesson plans. The public does not care and say we are whining. Teachers give suggestions but the board does not care about what we think. We love children and that is why we teach. Unfortunately, we are losing teachers at a record pace. They are going to Atlanta Charter Schools where they are paid well over what CCSD pays. The public doesn't care. They will care when their children are sitting in classrooms with 32-34 children next year. It will not stop there either. The following year they will be up to 34-36 kids and so on. We have executive secretaries that make more than teachers. It is sad that noone respects teachers or cares enough about their kids to fight. I love my job and the children, so all I ask for is a little respect. I am thankful for my job, and I truly believe most teachers fell the same.
Cobb Tax Payer
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May 08, 2012
No Change: Your comments are appreciated and very true. I have teachers in my family and totally agree the public does not understand what teachers go through. One other point is that a lot of principals don't support their teachers. The CCSD should do a better job in evaluating principals. Especially when you see a lot of turn over. Teachers are afraid to speak up, but more importantly, who can they talk with when the principals are the problem. It is unfortunate when we start putting more students in a class without any consideration what extra time and work this puts on the teachers. I welcome the day teachers say enough is enough.
Yikes in West Cobb
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May 06, 2012
The concern Bartlett has over the bundling of the 9th grade center and renovations for the rest of the school is complete unfounded. If she would look past her political agenda which seems to include support for anything in the Harrison community, she would realize the bundling was done as a measure of efficiency. Since Harrison is centrally located in West Cobb, it makes sense that a 9th grade center be built there because it could more easily and efficiently take on more students from any West Cobb high school in the future if necessary with the smallest about of disruption. That being said, think about the logic of bundling the cafe and chorus rooms into the 9th grade center. An expansion of the cafe is already in the SPLOST notebook, and a new chorus room is already part of the SPLOST notebook. Putting these two together with the 9th grade center was a decision of efficiency, not a ploy to get the center at Harrison. Enlarging the current cafe would take out needed space within the school like a new chorus room would. A new chorus room would take up the current space that 8 classrooms are using. That's eight more trailers if there is no 9th grade center building to put it in.
B. Franklin
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May 06, 2012
You people are crazy - you're not happy no matter what this board does.

You're unhappy when the board tries to save money, you're unhappy when money is spent, you're unhappy when you can't have time off during the year; it is a very sad situation.

You spoiled, self-indulgent, "instant gratification, give-me-what-I-want-NOW" infants are going to be the financial ruin of the school district.

"When the people find that they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic." Benjamin Franklin

School Advocate
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May 07, 2012
Ben would build now ! The money is in the bank - we, even old timers like Ben and Me have paid our 1% tax money and the 9th grade center was promised.
@school advocate
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May 08, 2012
No one has said that the ninth grade academy wouldn't be built!!!!!!!!! Just put back to the place it was originally, AT THE END OF SPLOST!

Ben would not build now, Bill Clements.
anonymous
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May 06, 2012
Delaying the W. Cobb 9th grade Center until we see where the enrollment numbers are makes the most sense. Let's not forget that the enrollment numbers that have been quoted may not be valid next year, as the class sizes in all grades will increase, thereby increasing total capacity of the schools. Some schools that were considered "over capacity" may not be over capacity after 2 students are added to each classroom. The project is over budget. Where will the extra money come from? Will other schools renovations have to be decreased or delayed because the 9th grade center is over budget, if it is built on schedule? And how much will it cost to maintain a new, possibly unnecessary building?
Look Again
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May 08, 2012
The project was $700,000 over budget. But the school board is willing to throw away $500,000 in planning already done. Hmmmm.... "over budget" doesn't add up as an argument to me.

(And by the way, it was only over budget because CCSD did an across the board budget cut.)
Just one
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May 06, 2012
I have one simple request: give me one idea, initiative, or recommendation that Bartlett created to improve the school system. That one idea can't be saying "no" to other people. I have followed board politics for years, and there have been a lot of lows and crazy folks involved; Bartlett is, by far, the worst of them all because she adds nothing to the district's leadership or vision. She is great at blocking measures or plans, but she has yet to create something. She fundamentally lacks creativity and intellect, which should be essential elements of such a position. Not that Morgan, Banks, Stultz, or Angelucci are amazing or anything, but AB is useless. As flawed as they might be, at least the other people are offering ideas of some kind from time to time, but her one BIG plan is to say "no" to things. Bravo, Allie! You're an inspiration to the mental midgets of our time!
Bartlett Dictator
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May 06, 2012
We are so lucky in Cobb County to have someone as wise as Bartlett to step in and correct things when the public isn't wise enough to make their own decisions. The county approved the Balanced Calendar - the majority of parents, students and teachers favored it, but Bartlett knew more than them (although that was never evident at any board meeting I observed) and changed it.The public voted for this SPLOST, which was to include the 9th grade center in West Cobb, the board and committees approved it, but Bartlett and her cronies knew better and are breaking the law by refusing to spend allotted funds correctly.Last night she insulted taxpayers and students by showing no concern for their school, safety or property values. She admitted that she had never been inside Harrison and wouldn't go to the trouble of walking across the hall to look at the Chorus room. She thinks the taxpayers who send their children to Harrison should send their tax dollars to South Cobb. After all it is far more important that the students whose parents are more likely to vote Democrat receive the benefits of that money regardless of what SPLOST was supposed to do.Because the Mighty Alison Bartlett knows best. This is one thing you need to know mighty dictator - you are out next election and thanks to you the next SPLOST is dead in the water.
No SPLOST
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May 06, 2012
I agree that Bartlett's actions have killed any chance of the SPLOST passing. If they are going to be fiscally responsible they have to learn to balance a budget and quit relying upon SPLOST money. As long as any of these 7 board members are still in office I will not vote for a SPLOST again.
anonymous
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May 06, 2012
SPLOST was dead long before the 9th grade center issue.
thank you
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May 07, 2012
ever since the calendar vote against the clear majority, I have seen Bartlett and the others as self serving dictators. Very well put!
A Taxpayer
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May 06, 2012
Although I disagree with the format of the forum, we need more fiscal conservatives like Ms. Bartlett in public positions to say "NO" to the rampant tax-and-spenders. Good for her. If the projections are down for the number of students going into Harrison, then wait until the economic climate is better to go building new stuff. Quit wasting our money, Cobb County!
Equal Consideration
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May 06, 2012
The constituents Bartlett purports to represent, would have appreciated having been shown the same consideration as she demonstrates to other groups of constituents. Recently at least five days notice was given of a solid date for a meeting to another group, and the meeting agreed upon was twice as long. In Harrison's case: only two days were given, it was 1/2 the length, it was late on a Saturday evening on a day many consider a holiday, and on which many other events were already taking place. To top things off, the format was such that the audience was effectively gagged. What is she afraid of?
anonymous
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May 06, 2012
Ever consider the lack of notice was due to the county's reluctance to hold the forum? It wasn't Bartlett dragging her feet....
Deceitful
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May 06, 2012
When asked last night why she was going directly against the reccomendation of the Facilities and Technology committee that she leads, she said they only follow committee reccomendations 90% of the time. However, on April 28 in this paper, she was quoted as saying: “When a committee votes you should be working actively to support that vote. It’s called an oath of loyalty,” (http://mdjonline.com/view/full_story/18390736/article-Revote-set-for-9th-grade-center-at-Harrison-High-School?)

no public allowed
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May 06, 2012
The town hall, public forum, or whatever you want to call it did certainly not involve the public. After Barlett spoke for 25 minutes and didn't allow anyone else to speak showed cowardness and disrespect. Did she really believe that her ego-driven speech would change the minds of tax payers. She is really uninformed if she believes she will be re-electd in the area. She has some kind of personal agenda, but not sure what it is. She does like to hear herself talk.
anonymous
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May 06, 2012
Bartlett can't have it both ways!

It's hypocritical for her to cite declining enrollment as her reason to not support the ninth grade center at Harrison.

Bartlett voted to award construction contracts for the South Cobb and North Cobb ninth grade centers each that have experienced declining enrollment.

So did Morgan.
Mouths of babes...
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May 06, 2012
It is interesting even that knowing nothing about this subject prior to attending the meeting, our sixth grader was able to understand that Bartlett was using avoidance and distraction as techniques in the situation, and that she was unable to support her controversial opinion with facts that were relevant to the discussion at hand. Our daughters final comments walking out were that she "would not vote for her".
anonymous
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May 06, 2012
You really posted this....you do know other people can read this stuff, right?
Concerned Homeowner
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May 06, 2012
When Bartlett was asked last night who would buy our homes in the Harrison district after everyone moved to the surrounding districts to assure their children attended a high school that was attended to by the school board properly - kept maintained and up to date and wasn't overcrowded - she snidely answered "Not me!". She summarily dismissed this very valid question with not a single word more in comment.
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