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Board member demands answers

By Greg Gelpi

Clayton County Board of Education member Linda Crummy has sent a letter to Superintendent Barbara Pulliam questioning the legality of filling three senior level administrative positions.

Pulliam presented information on three job candidates to the Clayton County Board of Education during an executive session held before the March 1 board meeting. During the open meeting, Pulliam recommended that the board approve hiring the three, two for "restructured" positions and another for a position that had been vacant for about a year.

The board approved the recommendations in an 8-0-1 vote, with Crummy abstaining.

Crummy explained her abstention at the time, saying that she was being "polite" and didn't feel comfortable voting with little time to review the recommendations and without considering recommendations from within the system.

Crummy's certified letter to Pulliam quotes Georgia statutes regarding hiring procedures and charges Pulliam with violating these statutes.

Pulliam said she has been busy working on budgetary concerns and has yet to respond to the letter, although she intends to respond.

Crummy said hiring three senior administrators is part of the budget concern.

The board approved an option to cut two senior administrative positions at a called meeting Monday. The board also cut positions for 51 teachers, 44 physical education teachers and two orchestra teachers at the meeting.

"I feel (the teachers) pain, and I do support them," Crummy said. "We need to look at higher positions and cut those bureaucratic positions, instead of looking at teachers in the classroom."

The cuts were the board's response to what Chief Financial Officer Lee Davis projects to be a $25 million budget shortfall.

Pulliam said at the meeting that she hopes to reduce senior administration by four positions in the coming year. The reductions, she hopes, will come through attrition and retirement.

"Financially, the school system is in dire straits, and we don't need to add any additional high paying administrative positions," Crummy said in the letter.

Pulliam said she doesn't plan to make any recommendations to the board to rescind the personnel changes, as Crummy urged in her letter.

"There is nothing I plan to say at this time," Pulliam said. "I do plan to respond."

She has been at meetings in which Crummy was in attendance, but said she has yet to discuss the letter with her.

"I'm a little appalled," Crummy said. "Since she doesn't respond, I just feel she has a cavalier attitude. She said she would communicate with us, so I wrote her a letter. I don't think you can get too busy to respond to a board member."

Crummy said that the positions were not advertised and Pulliam failed to follow "recruitment and selection" procedures.

The letter asks Pulliam to recommend that the board rescind the personnel actions at the board's next regular business meeting, which will be in April.

"If you fail to recommend that the school board rescind the illegal action which occurred on March 1, 2004, I can only conclude that you don't care what Georgia law says. I await your prompt response," Crummy said in her letter.

At the March 1 meeting, the board approved Pulliam's recommendations for the hiring of Jean Hale Hicks as chief of staff, Sharon Contreras-Halton to chief academic officer and Cindy A. Brictson as Area 1 area instructional specialist.

Chief of staff and chief academic officer positions didn't exist prior to the meeting. Pulliam "restructured" existing senior positions to create those positions.

All three came from school systems that Pulliam previously worked for.

Pulliam changed the administrative rule prior to the meeting allowing for direct appointment of positions.