Members of a political action committee that supported the Athens school bonds showed up angry to a regularly scheduled board meeting Thursday night, and they had plenty to say about it.

They cast a wide net that laid blame for failure of half of the bond at the feet of county officials and even some community and school board members.

Although a $3.75 million proposition passed during the Nov. 4 election — one of two proposals, the other of which was for $21.5 million — school officials said Thursday much more needs to be done.

“We have the icing,” Board President David Freeman said, “but we still need some cake. Put the signs in storage, but don’t throw them away.”

The Nov. 4 effort was the second time the board had sent a bond issue to Athens voters this year. The first effort, a $28.4 million proposal, was struck down by voters in May.

Sarah Grey, chairperson of the Support Our Schools PAC, said the group doesn’t plan to file a lawsuit challenging the election results in state district court. Last week, Athens school Superintendent Dr. Fred Hayes said the board is not permitted to challenge the election results.

Grey was among several bond supporters who felt the county did not administer the election correctly. Among the concerns was that an undetermined number of Athens ISD voters may not have been given the correct ballot and therefore were not given an opportunity to vote on the bonds.

Grey told the board she feels the “weakest link in the chain” was the county elections office. She also turned her ire on school board members, several of whom she said didn’t truly support the bond despite voting in favor to move forward with sending a plan to voters. She did not name any board members specifically.

“To the school board members — you have a responsibility to bring to the table what is in the best interest of our children and not to place your agendas before them,” Grey said Thursday night. “SOS will continue working to ensure that we re-elect the board members that are contributing to moving our district forward and replace those that are not.”

Amy Norton, another PAC member, said she believes the only thing that would have helped pass the bond is for the board to be more vocal.

“It is my opinion although each of you are members of the school board, you as individuals are citizens and could and should have been an advocate in that capacity,” Norton said.

Yet another SOS PAC member, B.J. Davies, urged the board to “stay the course and make Proposition 1 a reality.”

Proposition 1, the $21.5 million bond that failed, called for construction of an elementary campus to house first through third grade students. Currently, students in those grades attend two schools — Bel Air and South Athens elementaries.

“We are disappointed in the outcome of Prop 1 and although we will never know what the true outcome would have been, we know that there are at least 3,334 voters who shared a vision and had high hopes for what we could do for our children and our district,” Grey said.

Grey, Norton and Hayes said they believe the county did a poor job administering the election.

“There were 22 reported (election) code violations and other irregularities in the administration of this election,” Grey said. “And those are only ones we were made aware of in the seven days after the election. We should all be outraged that the county can make these kinds of mistakes with our tax dollars and claim no responsibility or accountability.”

Most of the allegations indicated problems at polling sites, whose workers are appointed by members of the Henderson County Democratic and Republican parties and approved by the county Commissioners Court.

All of the committee members who spoke said they did not realize how polarized the community was about the school district’s situation. Several questions have to be answered before another bond proposal is made, Davies said.

Among those are: helping the community members who are over age 65 realize their taxes will not increase; that construction prices are never going to be cheaper; and that the facilities are in dire need of renovation.

“We acknowledge that our community is a very ‘high touch’ community, that is — they want to know what’s going on and feel included in the process,” Grey said. “But it is not the community’s job or place to micromanage the decisions made by our board and administration.”

Grey reminded the board members that this “high touch” community watches their actions.

“Make no mistake that your actions speak louder than words,” Grey said to the board.

As for the $3.75 million bond that passed, board members voted to move ahead with planning for how to use those funds. Money will be taken from the district’s capital projects fund and reimbursed after the bond is sold. The bond cannot be sold until 30 days after the vote is canvassed. That happened last Thursday.

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