It was a huge battle to get the approval to open the School for Arts Infused Learning, otherwise known as SAIL, in Columbia County a few years ago.
As Columbia County’s first and only charter school, it got its charter back in 2014, but those driving the development had to jump through tons of hoops to finally make it a reality.
When SAIL eventually opened in August 2017 in Evans, it was immediately embraced by the entire community.
The school quickly had a long waiting list of parents anxiously trying to get their students enrolled.
In the first year alone, the school accepted about 440 students through a lottery system, but more than 700 were still on a waiting list.
Everyone seemed to want to be a part of SAIL.
And then, the school’s incredible reputation completely took a nose dive last week after the sudden departure of the school’s beloved superintendent, Kristy Zgol, and the shocking dismissal of three of the governing body’s own board members.
The situation quickly got even worse after the board went behind closed doors into executive session while a packed audience of angry parents were demanding answers.
Basically, the parents decided to openly vent their frustrations with the board’s action and departure of Zgol while waiting hours for the board to return and reconvene the meeting.
The parents were so outraged that some discussed pulling their children out of SAIL and boycotting the school.
Some parents even demanded that the state Attorney General’s Office should conduct an investigation into the SAIL board and its actions.
Let’s just say, it wasn’t a good day at SAIL.
The situation should have been handled so much better considering the importance of the school’s reputation and the loyalty the parents and students have shown to this Columbia County charter school.
But the parents and students felt blindsided by the board’s actions.
According to the Augusta Chronicle, parents received a letter earlier in the week from the SAIL Governing Board stating that the members had “made the decision to move in a different direction with a change in leadership. The decision was not made without careful consideration and though this is a change, we continue to believe in SAIL’s mission and know that it is (an) amazing school with unlimited potential.”
The letter also reportedly said that the board would begin an “exhaustive and thorough search” for a permanent superintendent.
That kind of shocking announcement in such a close-knit school was clearly going to create a massive tidal wave of emotions.
Over the past several days, there have been many rumors circulating as to the reason behind Zgol’s abrupt departure. Some say she willingly resigned. Others insist she was pushed out.
But all of it is pure speculations because the board hasn’t publicly discussed the reason Zgol is no longer at SAIL.
So, why did the board seem so surprised by the irate parents demanding answers?
Many of the parents this week were in tears saying that Zgol knew not only every child’s name, but most of the names of the parents.
Many say she was a caring and loving superintendent and they deserve a full explanation as to why she is no longer heading the school.
That doesn’t sound like an unreasonable request.
If Zgol did something wrong, the board should publicly state exactly what happened in detail.
If parents and students are given the full truth, they may understand what happened and SAIL can move on from this public relations nightmare.
But, as of right now, many of the parents, students and even the school’s teachers and staff are deeply disappointed in what occurred last week.
In fact, some parents have created an open Facebook page called Scholar Parents for Transparency to discuss the issues facing SAIL.
“We are a group SAIL parents concerned with the future solvency of our charter school,” the Facebook page states. “Many believe some members of the board no longer represent the best interest of the school or what we are trying to accomplish at SAIL.”
Some parents are stating the board’s meeting violated Georgia’s Open Meetings Act and the board did not provide the public with adequate notice to attend the meeting.
Many parents are also claiming the board purposely tried to “leave parents in the dark.”
The truth of matter is, SAIL needs to quickly turn this ship around before it sinks.
There are a lot of good schools in Columbia County. Parents and students don’t have to stand behind SAIL.
They can jump in their cars and blast that old, popular Christopher Cross song from their stereos as they drive away.
Takes me away to where I’ve always heard it could be
Just a dream and the wind to carry me
Soon I will be free.”