One more attempt
In a letter sent to the executive director of the Alabama School Board Association Sally Howell, Selma City School Board president Henry Hicks Sr. lays out a plan he believes can help stabilize the leadership issue surrounding the Selma City School System.
In the letter dated Friday, Hicks announces a called school board meeting for Monday, Oct. 31 “for the purpose of appointing [an] acting or interim superintendent for this system until this matter is sorted out.”
The matter Hicks refers to is the legal questions surrounding his actions and the remainder of the board’s actions since Oct. 13 that saw the board place former superintendent of education Dr. Donald Jefferson on administrative leave and later his termination at a marathon hearing on Oct. 25.
In his letter, Hicks not only questions the legality of the board in appointing Gerald Shirley as interim superintendent, but also calls into question Shirley’s competency to serve in the office until the board can find the next superintendent if Jefferson is not ultimately placed back in the office.
“Based on my meetings with Dr. [Craig] Pouncey [with the Alabama Department of Education] and Mr. Shirley, I am not in favor of reappointing Mr. Shirley because of the complexity of the financial reports that must be filed,” Hicks wrote. “[Shirley] did not demonstrate to me that he understood very much about all the reports that had to be certified as correct and filed with the State Department of Education.”
As a stopgap measure, Hicks laid out his intentions to reinstall Jefferson as the expected legal proceedings begin.
“… I am going to recommend that Dr. Jefferson be appointed and that the status quo remain until a court can sort this out,” Hicks writes. “If the Board does not want to appoint Dr. Jefferson as interim superintendent, my next recommendation will be to request that someone from the Alabama State Department of Education be appointed to serve as interim superintendent.”
The system announced the called Monday meeting Friday afternoon, notifying the public the meeting would be held at the system’s central office on Broad Street at 1 p.m.
Also in the letter, Hicks said he was placing Jefferson on administrative leave once again. But, based on previous opinions from the Alabama School Board Association, Hicks, as only one member of the board, does not have the authority to take that measure or to place Jefferson on leave with pay.
The board voted to terminate Jefferson’s contract last week, ending his tenure with the system without pay.
Following the termination hearing, board vice chairman Brenda Randolph Obomanu, sent a letter to Jefferson detailing the terms of his termination and providing the former superintendent information on when he would be allowed back in the office to retrieve any personal belongings.
“After a nearly nine hour hearing that included the testimony of numerous witnesses and submission of multiple documents, the Selma City Board of Education found that you materially breached your contract and voted to cancel your contract based on the grounds set out in the October 13, 2011 notice to you,” Obomanu wrote. “With your dismissal as superintendent you will not be permitted to go past the common areas at the Central Office or other Board Buildings without an escort or approval from the Interim Superintendent. You may pick up any personal effects by contacting Mr. Shirley, Interim Superintendent on Monday, October 31, 2011 between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.”
The letter, dated Thursday, Oct. 27, came a day after Jefferson showed up to work Wednesday, despite having his contract terminated just hours earlier.
Jefferson reportedly went into the central office again Thursday evening.
On Friday, school board officials confirmed the locks of the central office had been changed.
Also, officials confirmed there would not be any disruptions in the system’s payroll next week, regardless of rumors otherwise.
In his letter to Howell, Hicks asked for the sides to come together to find a solution to this situation and appealed for the participants to concentrate on the real purpose of their jobs.
“Because there is so much at stake here, the board needs to be called together to get an update on the financial situation and do what it can to bring some order to this system,” Hicks wrote. “That is what is best for the children and employees. I’m asking board members to put aside personal differences and let’s deal with the situation before us that we were elected to do.”