Pre-K program scrapped

A controversial drawing for prekindergarten slots at River Ridge Elementary School has not been resolved.

However, influenced by the dispute, the Columbia County school board voted Tuesday to no longer offer pre-K options, beginning with the 2008-09 school year.

"We have a lot of fish to fry, and this is one that we could let somebody else handle now," said Wayne Bridges, the school board member who made the motion.

Mr. Bridges said he thought the private sector could meet the district's prekindergarten needs. He said the board would have to study how private pre-K programs could absorb the 320 pupils from county schools.

Mr. Bridges' motion passed 4-0. Board member Roxanne Whitaker abstained because of a lack of private pre-K schools in her district, which includes Harlem and Grovetown. She said she favored doing away with the pre-K program.

Superintendent Tommy Price said he hoped to give a final report on the River Ridge drawing to the school board by the end of the week. He said the findings could result in action against the administrators who oversaw the controversial drawing. He also said the district is investigating possible improprieties at other pre-K drawings.

Chairwoman Regina Buccafusco said the board would not make a decision about a redrawing at River Ridge until it receives the district's report.

Eleven of the 60 cards were folded in the March 22 drawing, and nine of those cards were selected. Of those, six were placed in the drawing by district employees.

"It was not fair. The folded cards had an advantage," Mr. Price said.

A redrawing scheduled for Tuesday afternoon, was postponed to give parents a chance to speak on the issue at the school board meeting. The eight people who spoke urged the board to let the results stand.

Tena Fulghum, a River Ridge teacher whose child was selected for the program with an unfolded card, said there was no collusion by district employees.

"I have nothing to be ashamed of. I have done absolutely nothing wrong," she said.

Reach Betsy Gilliland at (706) 868-1222, ext. 113, or betsy.gilliland@augustachronicle.com.