SCBOE chairman Callahan resigns

Stephen Milligan - The Walton Tribune

SOCIAL CIRCLE, GA (July 24, 2023) – Following the contentious vote on the land deal between the Social Circle Board of Education and the Social Circle City Council, SCBOE Chairman John Callahan announced his resignation less than 24 hours later.

Callahan submitted his resignation letter to the Social Circle City Schools office on Tuesday.

Photo credit: The Walton Tribune

In it, he wrote he “can’t be associated with a governance team taking action that is so egregiously irresponsible with school resources and in my opinion which also puts our students in harm’s way for decades to come.”Callahan, along with fellow board member Steve Trantham, both registered heavy opposition to the proposed land deal Monday at the special called meeting of the school board, where the deal was the sole object of discussion.

The two board members objected to the deal on financial and safety grounds, arguing the deal was more expensive than another piece of property previously discussed by the board.

Callahan argued the selected piece of land could cost as much as $2.8 million more and said that money could have been used to make a better school than what will ultimately be built.

“I always put students at the forefront of my concerns,” Callahan said. “This transaction is clearly worse for our students.”

They also objected to the location of the selected land for the new elementary school, which will currently have only one access point off the Social Circle Bypass.

The opposed board members argued putting school traffic, particularly school buses, on the busy bypass could lead to traffic accidents and possible fatalities.

“I believe locating the school on the truck bypass is infinitely more dangerous,” Callahan said, saying the school would be “trapped” between Social Circle’s industrial area and Interstate 20.

Ultimately, Callahan said before recording his vote on the 3-2 passage of the deal, he refused to be party to the proposed contract as presented.

“For the first time as board chairman, I refuse to sign this contract, and that breaks my heart,” Callahan said. “I’m not putting my name on this.”

A day later, his resignation letter would expand on those arguments.

“I was asked to vote to trade for land owned by the city of Social Circle prior to the land being appraised and prior to the survey being completed,” Callahan wrote. “The risk of tragedy at this location is more than I can bear.

“It presents too much unnecessary risk to our students and staff because this land is located on the truck route too close to a significant industrial area. This transaction is also not financially prudent as compared to the other land option we had at the time this vote was taken.”

When asked for further comment on his resignation, Callahan continued to argue the land swap deal was a bad deal but said he bore no resentment to the system he ws leaving.

“I do love Social Circle City Schools and I pray everything works out for the best,” Callahan said. “There have been other things we’ve done as a board I didn’t always agree with, but this was the first time I couldn’t bear to have my name on the action the board is taking.”

Callahan objected to one board member voting in favor of the deal, despite acknowledging a possible conflict of interests due to working for the city of Social Circle.

He also continued to insist the other land choice was a cheaper, safer choice, not only in freeing up money the system could have made from selling certain assets being swapped in the current deal but in savings on land assessments, roak work and clearing that will have to be done on the selected land.

Carrie Booher, superintendent of Social Circle City Schools, said Callahan would be greatly missed.

“For more than 11 years, Mr. Callahan has contributed significantly to the academic and overall growth of our students,” Booher said. “The school district has achieved several milestones and implemented numerous initiatives to enhance the quality of education in the district. Additionally, during his leadership, the board received its first-ever recognition as a Distinguished Board from the Georgia School Boards Association.

“We are grateful to Mr. Callahan for his dedicated service and countless contributions to our school and the entire community. His passion for education and commitment to excellence have been evident throughout his tenure.”

Booher said the board would move forward to select a new chairman as soon as possible.

“As we move forward, Social Circle City School District’s Governance Team will work collaboratively to ensure a smooth transition and continue their efforts to uphold our vision to ensure every child we serve has access to the knowledge and skills needed to become mindful, productive and empowered citizens,” Booher said. “Soon, the board will begin the process of selecting an interim chair who will serve until Dec. 31. The community will elect a replacement at the November 2023 election. Beginning in January, the elected chair will serve the remaining two years of the prior chair’s term.”

And, of course, the board will move forward on the elementary school project, which is now clear to move ahead in the coming months.

“During this transitional period, we assure you that the school district’s mission to empower students with an excellent and equitable education will remain at the forefront of our decisions,” Booher told parents in a letter issued Friday. “We uphold our commitment to creating an engaging and supportive learning environment for all students.”

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