Jonesboro Police take over school board security

By Trina Trice

aThe Jonesboro Police Department has assumed the task of providing security at school board meetings.

Out of a pool of five or six Jonesboro officers, two will work the meetings on a rotating basis, said Major Freeman Poole. No further details could be provided, he said.

Jonesboro police worked security for the first time at a called meeting May 21.

The change of the guard occurred following Detective Hank Derbyshire's departure at the request of Clayton County Board of Education Chairwoman Nedra Ware and Vice Chairwoman Connie Kitchens.

The two met with Clayton County Police Chief Darryl Partain earlier this month.

Derbyshire worked part-time as an off-duty police officer at school board meetings for 13 years.

Ware and Kitchens complained that Derbyshire did nothing when racist slurs were yelled at board meetings, according to Partain.

Ware and Kitchens did not provide specific examples of the alleged incidents nor could other board members, such as Barbara Wells, Bob Livingston and Ericka Davis recall hearing racist comments at meetings.

Since meeting with Ware and Kitchens, Partain said he has had no official contact from the school district.

"I did receive casual calls from board members," Partain said.

In part of a letter sent to the News Daily, Wells wrote that Derbyshire "is an asset to us and the community that he serves everyday. The accusations that he did not respond accordingly are not true. The procedures at our meetings have been lacking for sometime. The chair has the gavel in her hands and at anytime she felt someone was out of order, all she had to do was ask the officer to have that person removed. Furthermore, I would like people to know that the chair and vice-chair or any individual school board member do not have the authority to fire or hire anyone. Only the superintendent can do that."

A team of officials representing the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools recently made an onsite visit of the county's school district to investigate allegations that some school board members have been micromanaging the district's daily operations.

SACS accredits school districts throughout the Southeast.

An official SACS report won't be available until some time in June.

No one in the Superintendent's office could be reached for comment Tuesday to confirm or deny if there had been any consideration to reinstate Derbyshire.

"As far as there being an official request" to reinstate Derbyshire, "I have had no such thing. There is a stiff rumor out there. He still knows he couldn't go back, even if he wanted to."

Derbyshire is okay with Partain's decision.

"While things have gone on the way they are ? you never know what's going to happen," Derbyshire said. "They're always asking for respect, but they didn't respect me enough to talk about it. I'm not going back."

Police officers who provide security for school board meetings work on a part-time basis and are employed by the school system.

Officers receive $25 per hour and are guaranteed at least four hours per meeting.