School board votes no on investigation, questions remain

Published 7:40pm Friday, May 10, 2013

At last week’s Selma City School Board work session, school board president Henry Hicks Sr., called on the board for their full support in a call for a full investigation of the entire school system, top to bottom. Before the board voted on the investigation Thursday during their regular board meeting, Hicks called John Mulligan, the man recommended by the state to conduct the investigation, to the floor to introduce himself an answer any questions the board may have.

Mulligan told the board, who was seated at the front of a cafeteria filled with interested parties at Meadowview Elementary School, that he had 40 years of law enforcement experience — 30 in the FBI and 10 in the state attorney general’s office in the state of Alabama.

After hearing Mulligan’s resume, the crowd applauded wildly, before the board was called to vote. The crowd was silenced, as the board members were called to vote — Udo Ufamodu: Yes. Frank Chestnut: No. Brenda Obomanu: Abstain. Dr. Kirit Chapatwalla: No. Henry Hicks: Yes.

Realizing the vote for the investigation had not passed, repeated shouts of “that’s unacceptable,” rang throughout the cafeteria.

The board asked for a 15 minute executive session following the vote to discuss, “the good name and character of a particular individual.”

Exactly 50 minutes later they returned, but not as a unit. Hicks barreled into the cafeteria, grabbed a handful of papers and quickly left the building, less than 20 minutes in to the board’s executive session.

“I don’t want to be a privy of what I was hearing — and I can’t discuss that, because they are in executive session,” Hicks said of his reason for leaving executive session. “I have the right not to be in executive session if I choose not to. So I’m just exercising my right not to be there.”

Hicks said he was both surprised and disappointed the vote for the internal investigation of the Selma City School System did not pass.

“I am very disappointed in the vote. I just felt that even though we have differences, this is one thing as a board we could have come together on. And even if there was things we needed to work out after we got the vote passed, we could have still come together and worked out the issues and worked out the details and have an investigation,” he said. “I thought our board was more concerned about our children than what I’m seeing right now. Evidently, there must be something out there that somebody doesn’t want somebody else to know about.”

Hicks said the reason he called for the investigation in the first place is because there are so many allegations circulating about inappropriate behavior between teachers and students within the school system and it was time to discover the truth.

“But now we’re still going out here with all the innuendos, the accusations — nobody knows what’s true and nobody knows what’s false,” he said. “At this point, I think it’s a sad day for the Selma City School System. Some might not say that, but I do, because we had an opportunity to show our community that we care about our children and we care about the community, and we also care that we don’t want anybody hurting our children.”

Hicks said the district attorney has done an investigation as has the Selma Police Department, but asked what the board has done.

“I don’t think you can do too many investigations when it comes down to something like this,” he said. “Again I say, if there’s nothing to hide, why not have the investigation? Why are we hiding? What are we hiding? That is the question every citizen needs to be asking — what is Selma City School System hiding and the reason they don’t want an internal investigation?”

After executive session, Superintendent of Education Gerald Shirley and other board members returned to the cafeteria.

Obomanu said she had no comments on the abstention of her vote, while Chapatwalla said he voted no because he didn’t have enough information about the investigation or the agency that would be conducting it.

“I want to clarify my reason for voting yes on the investigation,” Ufomadu said. “We’ve been accused of hiding a lot of things, and I don’t want to be a part of that. To me, this about more than being a board member — we’re talking about morality issues.”

Parents at the meeting were audibly upset due to the result of the board vote. Carolyn Smith, mother of a student at Selma High School said she was both disappointed and hurt.

“For the school board to say that they support our kids and then do what they did tonight, I don’t understand that today, and I won’t understand that tomorrow,” Smith said, “because whether they have kids in Selma City School System or not — they are our children.”

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