By Curt Yeomans
Clayton County Board of Education Member Jessie Goree has been censured by her colleagues for violating five board policies, and one accreditation standard last month, when she walked into a meeting of principals, and allegedly criticized her colleagues and district leaders.
The school board voted 7-1 to censure Goree during a called meeting on Monday. Only Michael King voted against the censure. Board Member Trinia Garrett was not present for the vote.
Goree is accused of violating policies concerning board-staff relations, board-school superintendent relations, civility, ethics, board member duties, and staff relations. She is also accused of violating an AdvancED accreditation standard that requires board members to recognize the authority of the school system's superintendent.
According to the resolution to censure Goree, she allegedly engaged in behavior "unbecoming of a board member" by making "inappropriate and unprofessional comments" in front of the principals.
Goree denies she made such comments, however. The board member admitted she did greet the principals, and answered a question from a principal. She will not say what the question was, though, or how she answered it.
"I am guilty," Goree said. "I did address staff, but my intent was innocent. I do support the decision that was made today, and I am ready to move forward from this."
Goree is not going to face further sanctions on the matter, according to School Board Chairperson Alieka Anderson. She said the matter will not be forwarded to the school board's ethics commission for review. During the meeting, School System Legal Counsel Glenn Brock said that censure is a "public reprimand" from the board for Goree's behavior, but she will not lose any privileges as a board members, as a result.
One accusation made against Goree is that she "publicly expressed contempt for her fellow board members, the superintendent, school district staff, and specific members of the Clayton County Public Schools staff," while she was addressing the principals.
According to the resolution for her censure, Goree allegedly then left the meeting, to go to another meeting, but returned shortly thereafter and "continued the same rant."
Goree also allegedly encouraged staff members to file litigation against the school system, over the district's recent, budget-related staff reductions, because "in her opinion, the RIF [Reduction In Force] approved by the board was wrong."
Goree denounced the specific allegations as being "untrue." As a result, she said, she did not want to respond to the allegations, even though she was offered a chance to do so during an investigation into the matter. The question remains what did Goree say in that meeting. She refuses to divulge that information.
"Anything that was said, I want to keep that in confidence to avoid getting any staff members in trouble," she said.
Another allegation is that she made "unfounded and unrelated criminal allegations" against Anderson, and "unfounded allegations of policy violations" against School System Superintendent Edmond Heatley in a June e-mail. Goree told reporters that if they wanted to know what she actually said in that e-mail, they would have to file an open records request to get it.
The accusations made against Goree led some board members to express concerns about the district's accreditation, and the functionality of the school board. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) revoked the district's accreditation in 2008, largely because of a dysfunctional school board. The school system has since regained its accreditation, but it is in the middle of a two-year probationary period.
"SACS is watching us," Board Member Adamson said during the meeting. "We are just a few votes away from having a dysfunctional board again."