Oconee County Schools last week sent out a news release to 17 media outlets and journalists announcing that Board of Education Post 2 Member Amy Parrish plans to run for re-election this year.
It also posted the announcement on the front page of Oconee County Schools web site with a link to an inside page containing a picture of Parrish, an endorsement of her by Board Chair Kim Argo, and a biographical sketch of Parrish.
The statement quotes Parrish as saying “I would be honored to continue in this role with such a dedicated Board, as we remain fully committed to the sustained excellence for which Oconee County Schools is known.”
The news release also contained the announcement that Wayne Bagley will not run for re-election for Post 3 on the Board.
Following that announcement, Ryan Hammock and then Julie Mauck issued statements that they intend to qualify for the May 24 Republican Primary for the open Post 3.
No one has come forward to compete with Parrish, a Republican, and no Democratic candidates have announced so far for the two Board of Education spots. Qualifying is March 7 to 11.
In a separate development, Oconee County reported on Tuesday that a data breach has taken place that could have affected the files of Oconee County registered voters.
Diane Baggett, Communications Manager for Oconee County, sent out a news release at 10:38 a.m. on Tuesday saying the county Board of Elections and Registration had been notified by Easy Vote that a data breach has taken place.
Easy Vote assists Oconee County as well as more than 119 other counties in Georgia with absentee and early voting, according to the release.
Easy Vote has informed the county that the affected data breach included information that is currently public record as well as date of birth, which is not listed on public records.
Data files that are public record contain voter registration number, registration date, name, address, race, gender, status (active vs. inactive), date of last vote, party of last primary vote, as well as year of birth.
Easy Vote has secured the site and moved all files, the county news release stated. Voters that were affected are being reviewed, it continued.
The breach occurred from an export of the daily voter file on Jan. 13 of this year, according to the release.
No social security numbers or driver’s license numbers, which are part of the records, were released, according to the county announcement
“Oconee County Government is committed to ensuring that this incident is fully investigated in order to prevent future issues,” the news release states.
Oconee County Schools sent out its news release about Parrish’s candidacy and Bagley’s plans not to seek re-election on Jan. 31, and Hammock sent out a news release that same day saying he was planning to qualify for the open Post 3.
“My wife, three sons, and I have lived in Oconee County for eight years,” the news release states.
“Our oldest son attends Dove Creek Elementary School,” the statement continues. “We are active parents and strong supporters of the school and system. We are pleased with the quality of education provided Oconee County students.”
Hammock said he “began thinking of Board of Education service last year. We are a growing community and school system. I believe I can make a contribution to the community as a board member and parent.”
Hammock is senior vice president of Pinnacle Bank and a fourth generation farmer in Hall County, according to the release.
“I understand the need for proper fiscal management and the oversight required for long term sustainability and success,” the statement continues.
Hammock is treasurer for the Oconee Cultural Arts Foundation and treasurer for The United Way of Northeast Georgia. Brock Toole, Chief Operations Office of Oconee County Schools, is vice chair of the Oconee Cultural Arts Foundation.
In response to an email question I sent Hammock, he said he was not recruited to run for the Board of Education “although I did talk with several parents.”
“During my decision making process, I did ask Mr. Bagley if he intended to run for re-election,” Hammock said. “He confirmed he did not intend to run for re-election.”
Mauck posted the announcement of her candidacy for Post 3 on Feb. 3 on the Oconee County 411 Facebook page she administers.
"As the mother of four beautiful children--an advanced learner, two kids with Individual Education Plans, and one with a 504--I've been there and done that, so to speak,” Mauck said in a release she sent me on Feb. 6 in response to an email request.
(A 504 Plan is developed to ensure that a child who has a disability identified under the law receives appropriate accommodations.)
“I have been a parent to a child(ren) in the public school system for the past 20 years and have seen a decline in the quality of education being provided and civic understanding in addition to an unhealthy reliance on technology in the classroom, and I find those things concerning,” she wrote.
“Now, with only one child left to graduate, I feel called to serve in this capacity,” she wrote.
“I simply hope to bring some transparency to the process and to the curriculum, to give parents a seat at the table, and I would really like to see less of a focus on digital learning in addition to bringing back some training in trades,” her statement continued.
Mauck is the chapter chair of Moms for Liberty in Oconee County. She also is a realtor.
Mauck said, in response to a question from me, that “I wasn’t ‘recruited’ so much as ‘encouraged’ by several individuals that know my interest in education, both inside Moms for Liberty and outside.”
Mauck said she did not know of any candidates planning to run for Post 2.
The news release on Parrish’s announcement of her candidacy had the headline “Oconee County Board of Education members whose terms to expire Dec. 31 announce plans.” The subhead on the home page is "Bagley will not seek election; Parrish will go up for re-election."
|Bagley And Parrish |
From News Release
That same headline is used on the home page of Oconee County Schools and on the story linked to it.
Parrish has served on the Board of Education since 2016 in the Post 2 position, the statement reads. She has been vice chair since 2021.
Parrish is a senior financial advisor at Highland Trust Partners, according to the news release.
“She is married to Bob Parrish, and they are the parents of a son who is a student in Oconee County Schools and a daughter who graduated from Oconee County High School,” the release continues.
“Oconee County Schools is such a special place and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to serve these last seven years on the Board of Education,” she is quoted as saying.
The news release quotes Board Chair Argo as saying “It has been an honor to work with Wayne and Amy for a number of years, and they have both made significant contributions to Oconee County Schools.”
Parrish was appointed to the Board and re-elected four years ago. Board terms are for four years.
Bagley had stepped down from the Board in 2020 but was reappointed in a position swap last September that saw Argo move from Post 3 to Board Chair on the retirement of Tom Odom. Odom had been re-elected in November of 2020.
Jimenez, Director of Communication for Oconee County Schools, removed me from her news release list last August and told me that she would no longer answer questions from me “due to the frequency and volume” of the questions I asked of her. I specifically asked her to keep me on the news release list.
Jimenez told me in August I had to file open records requests in the future if I wanted information from Oconee County Schools.
After learning through last week’s edition of The Oconee Enterprise that Bagley had announced his decision not to seek re-election and that Parrish had announced her decision to run for office again, I filed an open records request for any news release Oconee County Schools had distributed on these decisions.
I also asked for the distribution list used for news releases and for email and other communication to the public, including parents, to school personnel, and to journalists and the media regarding the decisions of Bagley and Parrish.
I also asked for communication from Jan. 1 to the present to parents, school person, journalists and the media regarding the new Dove Creek Middle School.
I filed my release on Friday with Brook Whitmire, as is required by Oconee County Schools, but he forwarded it to Jimenez, who told me on Monday morning that I had to pay an “estimated cost” of $75.42 for the information.
This was to include “1.5 hours x $40.28 + $15 for a flash drive.”
The first 15 minutes were to be free, meaning that Jimenez was estimating it would take an hour and 45 minutes to retrieve and provide me with the information I requested.
$15 Flash Drive Released
I told Jimenez on Monday that I would pay the amount but asked that I be given an accounting of the expenses and that the information be provided on Google Drive rather than a flash drive.
On Tuesday morning I received a reply from Jimenez.
“Your Open Records Request has been completed,” she wrote. “The total cost is: $75.42 (1.5 hours x $40.28 hourly rate for lowest-paid employee capable of doing the work + $15 for a flash drive). The files are not available on Google Drive.”
She also gave me a link to an online list of news releases and attached three small excel files containing email addresses of media and school personnel.
The 8 GB flash drive I picked up on Tuesday contained clusters of zipped email messages, including my open records request forwarded from Whitmire to Jimenez on Friday.
“Please handle,” Whitmire wrote “and sorry for having to send you another one so quickly this week!”
My most recent prior Open Records Request has been on Jan. 25. That was for documents from the Jan. 19 Board of Education retreat.
The distribution list Jimenez provided me included journalists at WUGA, flagpole, the Enterprise, onlineathens, Oconee Patch, and WSBTV in Atlanta.
Many of the names are for people no longer working at those media outlets, including some who have been out of those positions for many years.
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