School board rejects superintendent's recommendations

Joe Paull jpaull@ledger-enquirer.com 
Supporters, friends, and family members of Muscogee County School faculty walk out of a school board meeting Monday night at the Muscogee County Public Education Center.
Joe Paull jpaull@ledger-enquirer.com Supporters, friends, and family members of Muscogee County School faculty walk out of a school board meeting Monday night at the Muscogee County Public Education Center.

In an action that Muscogee County School Board Chairwoman Cathy Williams called "shameful," a bloc of board representatives Monday night rejected all the personnel recommendations Superintendent Susan Andrews had made.

All but one was by a 5-4 vote.

After each vote, Williams said, "I personally apologize" to the many family and friends of the candidates who were in attendance.

Principal nominations turned down for the 2012-2013 school term were Cenobia Moore at Brewer Elementary School, Clara Davis at Britt David Magnet Academy, Tammy Anderson at Cusseta Road Elementary, Chris Cox at Double Churches Middle School, Gayla Childs at North Columbus Elementary School, Dawn Upshaw at Richards Middle School and Shiann Williamson at Waddell Elementary School.

Tamika Phillips was not approved as the new director of adult education.

Amy Wohler was not approved as Career, Technology and Agriculture Education (CTAE) supervisor at Jordan High School.

There was no discussion on any candidate.

Naomi Buckner voted against Upshaw in a 6-3 vote but did vote to approve all other candidates.

"I do not want to be lumped in that group," she said of those voting against the nominations in what Williams called "a bloc vote."

Voting against the nominations were Pat Hugley Green, Beth Harris, John

Wells, James Walker and Norene Marvets. Voting for approval on the nominations were Williams, Buckner, Mark Cantrell and Rob Varner.

As bewildered nominees and families left the room, an outraged Mike Johnson, who's retiring as Richards Middle School principal, stood up and declared, "You are all a bunch of cowards!"

Upshaw was to be his replacement.

"It was an embarrassment to the district. It was an embarrassment to everybody who was there," Johnson said outside the board room. "It was an embarrassment for me because I served the district 30 years, and I'm embarrassed that I have anything to do with those people, the ones who voted 'no.' "

He said some board members just wanted to make "a political statement," adding:

"It's the political side of the board that wrecks things at our level, at the principal level, and at the teacher level and at the student level. It's the politics that ruins education."

As the board went into executive session, Marvets and Green both refused to comment. Cantrell called the votes "embarrassing."

Janet LaFortune's name for principal at Mathews Elementary was not brought up for a vote although it was on the agenda last week at a work session.

Andrews said she pulled LaFortune's name for the best interest of the candidate. Faculty and parents at Mathews were upset and vocal when assistant principal Jan Greene was not Andrews' choice.

In a prepared statement, Harris said after the board meeting that rejecting Andrews' appointments was not meant to denigrate the candidates.

"I did not vote against those people, personally," she said, reading from a note pad. "We ceremonially delayed the appointments, and action will be taken at a future meeting."

The board's next meeting is set for June 4.

Other business

The school chose to hire McPherson and Jacobson LLC of Omaha, Neb., as the executive search firm to help find a replacement for the retiring Andrews, who is leaving at the end of July.

Other firms considered were B.W.P. and Associates of Libertyville, Ill., and RPA Inc. of Williamsport, Pa. A motion to hire B.W.P. and Associates was defeated by a 5-4 vote.

The board accepted a personnel report that included keeping Marvin Crumbs as principal at Columbus High.

The school district named Eric Crouch of Double Churches Elementary School as the outstanding first year teacher for 2012. Other nominees were Christopher Huffman of Shaw High School, Molly Reese of Wynnton Arts Academy and Tammie Short of Jordan High School.

The board approved an increase in the price of school lunches for the 2012-13 school term. In elementary school, the price will go from $1.95 to $2. In secondary schools, the price will go from $2.10 to $2.15.

The board had little choice but to raise the prices because the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010 has a clause that requires school systems to have equity in pricing.

The board approved a right-of-way and temporary easement to the city of Columbus in front of St. Elmo School in conjunction with the proposed construction of the round-about project at that location.

Related stories from Columbus Ledger-Enquirer