Tension mounts between school board, system
by Rebecca Johnston and Michelle Babcock
June 21, 2013 12:00 AM | 4091 views | 1 1 comments | 29 29 recommendations | email to a friend | print
New complaints against Cherokee County School District board member Kelly Marlow surfaced Thursday as tension between the school board member and school system staff escalated.

Barbara Jacoby, school district director of Public Information, Communications and Partnerships and former managing editor of MDJ’s sister paper, the Cherokee Tribune, wrote a letter Wednesday detailing the history of her relationship with Marlow, after the school board member complained about Jacoby in a June 11 letter to SACS.

Also, Cherokee School District teacher Jennifer Hall filed a second complaint Wednesday against Marlow, claiming that she felt threatened by Marlow’s actions in recent weeks.

Jacoby sent her letter to the director of the Office of Personnel Management, Trey Olson, on Wednesday, asking that the document detailing her history with Marlow be placed in her personnel file.

In the letter, Jacoby said “Ms. Marlow has targeted me personally, as well as my department.”

“At no time have I ever been insubordinate to the superintendent of schools,” Jacoby wrote. “I have completed work to exceed all job targets annually and have a clear record of exceeding expectations as an individual employee and as a team member regarding collaborative goals.”

In her letter, Jacoby wrote that Marlow’s actions against her dated back to her role as a leader of the Cherokee staff review of the Cherokee Charter Academy petition that Marlow supported, and where Marlow’s children currently attend.

“These actions by Ms. Marlow are increasing in number and severity, culminating in her public, false accusations against me in her June 11, 2013, letter to AdvancED and her subsequent statements in a newsletter, media releases, etc.,” Jacoby wrote. “And her suggestion at the June 13, 2013, school board meeting that the school district consider privatizing my department.”

Jacoby wrote in her letter that Marlow has made public statements about her plans to eliminate Jacoby’s job and department and made slanderous and libelous statements about her job performance.

“These public, false accusations damage my public reputation and affect my ability to do my job,” Jacoby wrote. “I have been recognized repeatedly by my peers and the community at-large for my job performance, community service and ethics and have been elected to positions of leadership in the community.”

Jacoby pointed to her time working for the Cherokee Tribune newspaper as one possible reason for Marlow’s actions.

“Ms. Marlow also has a professional and personal relationship with Robert Trim,” Jacoby wrote. “During my tenure at the Tribune, the newspaper reported on Mr. Trim’s arrest; his current work as a campaign consultant and spokesman for elected officials involved in scandals; and his now-former wife’s failed bid for the office of Sheriff.”

Both Marlow’s husband, Keith Marlow, and Trim’s wife Nicole Trim filed for divorce from their spouses in May, Cobb County court records show.

Trim said Thursday night that he had not seen the complaint from Jacoby and that his personal life is irrelevant to his professional career of 15 years as a political consultant on numerous campaigns at state and local levels.

“Ms. Jacoby is desperate to distract the public from the fact that there are fiscal irregularities and that the one focus of her job is to help communicate with the public which she refuses to do,” Trim said. “This is despicable that she would bring my personal life into this.”

Trim was referring to an ongoing battle after Marlow requested that the school board further discuss the 2010-11 final audit report. Marlow sent multiple emails to Petruzielo and Jacoby with questions about the audit, and they provided replies to Marlow’s inquiries, records from the school system show.

The item was put on the school board agenda for the June 13 meeting at Marlow’s request, and in the agenda, the item summary stated that “CCSD’s accounting policies and practices are in good standing, with no need for additional information and/or corrective action beyond what was contained in the final audit report.”

Hall, a Cherokee teacher, has filed two complaints about Marlow. The most recent was sent in an email to Marlow, School Board Attorney Tom Roach and Board Chair Janet Read, and Hall called Marlow’s actions unethical and inappropriate.

“Since the news of my complaint against her broke, Ms. Marlow has chosen to use the local media and the Internet to malign my character,” Hall wrote in her latest complaint, sent June 19.

Hall said her experience with Jacoby, Read and Superintendent of Schools Dr. Frank Petruzielo has been positive the entire time she’s been part of the district.

“I have found the board in general and Dr. P (Petruzielo) to be extremely supportive, always having students first and what teachers need to make students first the forefront of their vision and what they are doing for us,” Hall said Thursday. “Recently, I feel like that’s changing a little bit and that’s why I’ve spoken out on some things.”

Hall has been a CCSD teacher for nine years and will teach middle school this upcoming school year. Hall said she moved to Cherokee County so her son could attend school in what she called a “fabulous district.”

The first complaint was filed by Hall June 10, and in it she wrote that Marlow addressed her directly at a private meeting regarding education solutions, hosted by Republican Party Chairman Rick Davis on June 5.

Hall wrote that, during the meeting, Marlow brought up a letter to the editor she had written to the Tribune.

“The first few times that she mentioned the letter that criticized her, I chose not to respond,” Hall wrote in her complaint email to Jacoby on June 10. “It was obvious that she wasn’t happy about this letter. Finally, she said, ‘you said my behavior at the meeting was unconscionable.’ She also called my letter ‘scathing.’”

Hall wrote in the June 10 complaint that she felt Marlow’s actions were “an attempt to intimidate” her, and said Thursday that she felt it was inappropriate and unethical way for a school board member to treat a district employee.

“Ms. Marlow was accompanied by Robert Trim, who acts as her political consultant,” Hall wrote. “Mr. Trim had already shouted at another CCSD teacher in attendance and told a parent of a CCSD student to ‘shut up.’”

In Marlow’s latest email and online newsletter dated June 17, she mentioned Hall and another CCSD teacher by name, and wrote that it was fortunate that “board members are not the only ones subject to complaints and open records requests.”

Hall said that she felt it was unfair for Marlow to name the other teacher who has not spoken to the media, and said she felt threatened by Marlow’s actions. Hall said that Marlow’s recent newsletter and her comments to local media were the reason she filed the second complaint on June 19.

“I am also interpreting her statement regarding open records requests as a threat against me,” Hall wrote in her June 19 complaint. “I feel that this threat is intimidating and needs to be addressed.”

Hall said she is not worried about losing her job because the many positive reviews she’s received from principals and others involved in the district, and said in her experience, Jacoby had been great to work with.

“I have always found her very professional, I have found her e-mails to staff members regarding events and things happening in the district to be very beneficial. She’s a terrific aspect to Cherokee County schools, as is Dr. P,” Hall said.

On Thursday evening, Marlow said she could not comment because she had not received the document.

The email from Jacoby following an open records request for her letter showed that Marlow was copied on the document earlier Thursday.

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June 21, 2013
This saga reminds me of Clayton County!
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