Board fires officer

By Trina Trice

Two members of the Clayton County Board of Education have fired Clayton County Police detective from the job of providing security at board meetings ? a job he has had for 13 years.

The action has angered some other board members who said they were not consulted and caused the police chief to decide not to send a replacement over.

Board Chairwoman Nedra Ware and Vice Chairwoman Connie Kitchens told Clayton County Police Chief Darryl Partain they were displeased with the job performance of Det. Hank Derbyshire.

Their complaint was Derbyshire did not respond "accordingly" to "the racial outcry or outbursts that disrupted the meetings," Partain said.

"They came to have a discussion with me," Partain said. "They were concerned about the public outcry at their organized meetings and the lack of response to the public outcry by our representative of law enforcement there."

"They said he was very friendly with the audience, maybe too friendly to a certain degree."

The board's June 2 meeting is scheduled to be Derbyshire's last.

Besides his board duties, he's performed off-duty service at school athletic events for 18 years.

Partain pointed out, however, that the board had the authority and responsibility for dismissing Derbyshire, and their action, therefore, did not warrant a meeting with him.

Suggesting his meeting with Ware and Kitchens was unnecessary, Partain said, "I reckon anyone that employs an officer off-duty," to change that officer's "status of employment is up to" the employer. Derbyshire "is an employee of the Board of Education. This was an off-duty employee grievance."

As a part-time officer, Derbyshire made $25 per hour, being paid a minimum of four hours, said Lee Davis, chief financial officer for Clayton County Schools.

"I am greatly disappointed," said Member Ericka Davis. "I have not found him to be derelict in his duties. Quite the opposite n he went beyond his duties. He assisted me with my daughter in meetings when she became fussy as 2-year-olds will do. Never in his service to us has there been a physical altercation or theft in our parking lots. Not even when there were crowds of 800 people.

"I think there is some confusion in that Hank's duties do not involve him playing parliamentarian for these meetings," Davis said. "That is the responsibility of the Chair. She must make clear the atmosphere that is demanded at those meetings and then much like I'm sure she would operate order in her classroom, when there are disruptions, direct Hank to remove the offending audience member. She has never directed him to remove someone."

Derbyshire would have preferred board members talk to him, instead.

"I wasn't too happy about it," Derbyshire said. "I wish they would have come to me first."

Concerning his negligence at addressing racial slurs at board meetings, Derbyshire said, "I treat everybody the same. I assure you, whether you're black or white, if you had said anything racial to board members or anybody, I would have stepped in."

Partain told Ware and Kitchens that they should consider asking the Jonesboro Police Department for help.

"They expressed to me they'd rather go into another direction," Partain said. "I did not have anyone in mind that could take (Derbyshire's) place at the time.

"I have the authority to discontinue" providing police officers for off-duty work "with organizations and I chose to do so" with the school board.

Jonesboro Police Chief Mark Harris says he has been contacted by Ware, but doesn't know yet why she called.

"She hasn't called me back yet," Harris said. "I've just got to talk to them and see what they're requesting."

Harris confirmed that he allows his officers to work off-duty on a part-time basis and is aware of controversies surrounding the board and its meetings.

"We've been over" at the Administration Complex where board meetings are held "to help out when things get out of hand," Harris said.

Questions are being raised about the legitimacy of Derbyshire's dismissal since Ware and Kitchen's meeting with Partain was not done on behalf of all board members.

"That's supposed to be a body" decision, board member Bob Livingston said.

Officials from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools are conducting an onsite inquiry today due in part to allegations that board members have been micromanaging the school system.

"Unilateral action made by one or a few without consulting the other members and communication about expectations of those employed in the system is what is at the heart of the problems with the Board," Erica Davis said. "I think before we continue to remove people because one or two are displeased, we must see first that we've done all that we could do to make our expectations known and remember that these people have families.

Ware did not return phone calls by press time. Member Barbara Wells declined to comment, members Linda Crummy, Carol Kellam, and LaToya Walker could not be reached for comment; and Kitchens refused a phone call made to her Wednesday afternoon.