Originally created 03/15/97

School selection process should be made public, grand jury says



Richmond County schools did nothing wrong when picking a new school site but must be more open in the future, a grand jury committee has ruled.

A subcommittee of a Richmond County grand jury investigating how a south Augusta farm was chosen as the site for a new high school found nothing amiss with the process. It did find fault with how leaders went about the decision.

"The site selection process should be presented to the public to gain support from the community," the grand jurors wrote.

The 98-acre site on Old Waynesboro Road was picked by the board's planning consultant, top school leaders and approved by the 10 trustees - all without public input.

"I don't have no problem in the future involving the public on selection of school sites," said Superintendent Charles Larke on Friday.

Dr. Larke said he does not understand all the fuss about the board wanting the farm, owned by James Weathersbee, who doesn't want to sell. The board wants all but three acres of Mr. Weathersbee's farm, leaving him his house, Dr. Larke said.

"We've never taken anybody's home. That I can remember. Never," Dr. Larke said. "It's not the first time we had an unwilling seller. We condemned property where Tobacco Road (Elementary School) is. So this is nothing new with the high school site."