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The Walker County Trio
When laws are bypassed by those in power, who pays the price? Spoiler: It's not them.
Laws are not mere words on paper; they uphold the values of a community. Over a decade ago, Georgia enacted a law stating that if you have an immediate family member — be it a son, daughter, sibling, or parent — in roles such as superintendent, principal, assistant principal, or other system administrative positions within a school district, you cannot serve on the school board. There is no ambiguity. And, like all good laws, you don’t need a law degree to understand it. The intention? To prioritize student outcomes over personal gains. To put the children first, not adult preferences and desires.
Yet, when Walker County school board member Mike Carruth's son was promoted to the position of assistant principal in 2018, why didn't he step down from the board? Why did board attorney Ron Womack and superintendent Damon Raines see no fault in this blatant disregard for state law?
There is a saying that the definition of character is what you do when no one is looking. In Walker County, where school board meetings are rarely well attended and never broadcast or recorded, not many people were looking in 2018. In the case of Carruth, Womack, and Raines, when no one was looking, they chose to ignore a clear breach of the law. Their choices reveal two systems of law and justice: one system with soft laws that are flexible or even optional for them, the privileged few. And another system with iron laws that are unforgiving for the rest of us, ordinary citizens.
What are the repercussions of their choices? Teachers, the backbone of our education system, remained undervalued and underpaid. With too many constraints and too few resources teachers actually need, test scores continued to fall, yet somehow graduation rates rose. Basic reading and numeracy skills have been neglected and underfunded while quasi-curriculum fads like 7-mindsets received hundreds of thousands in funding. And residents have faced unrelenting increases in property taxes, locking many into a vicious cycle of grinding poverty.
On the flip side, the past few years have been very good for Carruth, Womack, and Raines. Ron Womack's firm collected substantial legal fees year after year, courtesy of hard-earned taxpayer dollars, despite an expensive legal battle and costly defeat for the school system in federal court. Mike Carruth, while never voting on matters directly involving his son, nonetheless saw his son swiftly rise to a coveted, well-paid position in the central office system administrative staff. Superintendent Raines was rewarded last year in a close 3-2 vote with a generous contract extension and a salary increase. Moreover, Raines' gig was further sweetened by the purchase of two mint and gleaming GMC trucks in February of this year — one of which was designated for his exclusive use, each with a staggering price tag exceeding $50,000.
The next school board meeting is on August twenty-first. Sign up to speak. Bring your families, your friends, your colleagues. Show up and stand up for children, stand up for teachers, and stand up for integrity. Carruth, Womack, and Raines must be asked two questions. First, why did they not care that Carruth broke the law and remained on the school board when there was no question that the law prohibited it? The public deserves an explanation. Second, it's time to ask them for their resignations. The public demands accountability.
You see, every great story, every remarkable achievement starts with that audacious decision - to turn the page. To turn the page is to embrace a better future for the people and community we all know and love. It's a declaration that we are not content with mediocrity, that integrity and honesty are important, that character matters, and that no single person --or trio-- is better than any one of us. Walker County, let's not just turn the page but write a chapter so inspiring that future generations will look back in admiration and say, “That was the moment. That was when they chose greatness.”