Fireworks ignite during school board meetings

Published 10:45pm Tuesday, October 25, 2011

In a move Selma School Board attorney Katy Campbell said was not legal, board president Henry Hicks, Sr. ruled the actions of three board members in a previous meeting and the resulting board votes were not only illegal according to state law, but also ruled them void.

Those actions included a vote by three board members to place superintendent of education Dr. Donald Jefferson on administration leave and called for a hearing — which was in the process of being held Tuesday — to decide on the cancellation of his contract.

At the end of a regular called board meeting — which began at 5:30 p.m. and included a number of board approved agenda items — Hicks read a prepared statement declaring the actions by board members Holland Powell, Frank Chestnut Jr. and Brenda Randolph Obomanu technically invalid.

In addition, Hicks declared that Dr. Jefferson was the superintendent of education and ordered acting superintdent of education Gerald Shirley back to his position as principal of School of Discovery immediately.

After doing so, Hicks gaveled the regular meeting adjourned and left the building without further comment. Board member Dr. Udo Ufomadu also left the meeting. Powell, Chestnut and Obomanu remained at the meeting.

Campbell said later that Hicks did have the authority to close the meeting without a motion and a second, and did not have the authority to rule past board actions illegal or invalid.

“Only a majority of the board can do such a thing,” Campbell said. “Mr. Hicks does not have that authority.”

Shortly after Hicks and Ufomadu left the meeting, Obomanu, who is vice-chair of the school board, reconvened the body in a called hearing to decide Jefferson’s future.

Once the hearing began, Jefferson’s attorney Terry Davis and Campbell entered into a lengthy, heated debate over the validity of the hearing with Davis calling the hearing both a “kangaroo court” and a “sham.”

The hearing was called for board members to decide if Jefferson had entered into a contract with a professional and student assessment service vendor — STI — without board approval.

During testimony, Campbell provided documentation that the board voted during their Sept. 8, 2011 meeting not to use STI’s services, but that school officials continued with planned implementation of the programs.

Also, testimony provided details that when Jefferson was interim superintendent in July 2010, that he authorized a contract with STI for the 2010-2011 school year in the amount of $156,135.

That contract never received board approval.

Jefferson’s defense throughout the evening — in addition to contesting the legitimacy of the proceedings — contested board members new the contract had been entered into and that they in fact approved the $156,135 payment when they reviewed a check registry that showed the payment was made in October 2010.

Also during testimony, Shirley was asked by Davis if he recognized the board as the governing body, and if Hicks is the board president, would he still show up to the central office Wednesday as interim superintendent.

“I work at the pleasure of the board,” Shirley repeatedly answered.

It was still unclear as of this report, whether Jefferson will show up to the board office based on Hicks’ announcement.

As of midnight., the hearing was still ongoing with both sides providing evidence and objections.

Davis has said he plans to call a total of 31 witnesses once the board completes laying out their case.

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