By Bob Paslay
The day the Clayton County School System was placed on probation, the chairwoman of the board moved to reprimand the interim superintendent who gave a candid assessment of meddling to the accrediting agency.
In addition, Chairwoman Nedra Ware has instructed the other seven board members not to contact the interim superintendent or any other school employee and direct all requests to the chairwoman or vice chairwoman.
Board member Barbara Wells, a critic of Ware and Vice Chairwoman Connie Kitchens' handling of the job in recent months, said Wednesday they have no authority to issue any reprimands or restrict access to Interim Superintendent Dr. William Chavis or any other employee.
"We have eight members on the board and this is not a dictatorship. This kind of action is exactly what got us on probation in the first place."
Chavis could not be reached for comment.
In addition, the News Daily has learned that Ware on
Wednesday cancelled a conference call with the Georgia School Boards Association, which board members want to help in picking a superintendent and to get off probation.
Ware and Kitchens are opposed to a plan pushed by Wells, Ericka Davis, Bob Livingston and Linda Crummy that would open up the search nationally and allow the public access and input into the process.
The News Daily has also learned that on Friday when the SACS report was expected, Ware and Kitchens attempted to commandeer it and said they wanted it before Chavis could get it and read it or distribute it to all board members.
A copy of the "reprimand" obtained by the News Daily is on stationary from Ware and is dated June 2, the same day the probation letter from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools criticizing Ware and Kitchens' actions arrived at the school district.
The "reprimand" letter says "this letter serves as a reprimand to you in regards to the recent administrative actions taken by you without the knowledge and approval of the Board Chairman."
Ware charges that Chavis, who was appointed after Superintendent Dan Colwell was ousted in January, has not consulted her before making up the agenda for the board meetings.
"The agenda for the regularly scheduled monthly meeting to be held June 2003 was completed and distributed to board members without my knowledge and approval," the reprimand letter said. It also chastises Chavis for not getting minutes of meetings to her in a timely manner.
In a letter dated Wednesday, to all board members, Ware said, "I am calling upon each of you NOT to contact any school system employee for anything. If you have concerns or issues that need urgent attention, please contact the vice-chairman and /or myself. Any issues taken to the superintendent must come from the vice-chairman or me."
Neither Ware nor Kitchens could be reached for comment.
Ware and Kitchens were instrumental in ousting Colwell and replacing him with Chavis.
The SACS report quoted Chavis as saying that Ware and Kitchens instructed him on who to move around in the district and that with their meddling he is nothing more than a "figure head" for the board.
It was this meddling and lack of following board policies that caused SACS to place the 50,000 student, 5,800 employee district on probation.
During the coming year, SACS said it will monitor the situation, pay additional on-site visits and determine whether to lift the sanctions or whether to go further and remove the accreditation.
Loss of accreditation would mean the loss of HOPE scholarships received by almost 60 percent of the graduating seniors going on to college. It also would have other dire effects like making it hard for an employee to find a job at an accredited school district or for students to transfer their Clayton County credits to any accredited district.