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Emotions run high at work session

Emotions ran high at the Selma City Schools work session Tuesday between members of the board as well as members of the audience. While business was conducted during the meeting, things were relatively calm. However, when board president Henry Hicks Sr., Udo Ufomadu and Frank Chestnut Jr. stayed behind to hear concerns from the audience and answer questions, tempers flared.

Once again, the conversation returned to the events that led to superintendent of education Dr. Donald Jefferson being terminated and accusations of secret meetings.

When the motion was brought before the board to place Jefferson on administrative leave in mid-October, Chestnut said it was totally justified.

“I sat right here in this chair and looked Dr. Jefferson in the eye and he told me we did this last year and my mind started searching because I keep up with everything I do,” he said. “This year, the board voted it down and he pushed it through anyway. The truth needed to be told, and I am glad these citizens are concerned about the truth.”

Rather than play the board’s issues out in the court of public opinion, Chestnut said he would like to see the issue resolved in the court of law.

“Right now we have a pending legal matter and I think we should work it out in court, and I think we will see what was done and if everything was done in order or not,” Chestnut said. “I just pray folks will give it to God and let him work it through.”

Hicks said he had hoped the board’s differences could have been resolved during work sessions and meetings, but felt certain members of the board were working against others. Hicks said many issues were not being aired in the open, and instead taking place during private discussions.

“You and I sat in this room Friday after that meeting was over with and I told you how I felt about you. I told you man to man and I didn’t get in front of a room full of people,” Hicks said, directing his comments to Chestnut. “I told you I felt you had betrayed me and I told you that to your face. I don’t go out and publicize what I do, but since ya’ll are going out and talking about what I’m doing, I’m gonna do that.”

Chestnut said he also felt he had been left in the dark on meetings. Before, Chestnut said Hicks called to see if meetings worked with board member’s schedules. The past two meetings, including a Monday work session, had been scheduled without a phone call, he said.

Hicks acknowledged he no longer called members before meetings because he felt many of his calls and suggestions fell on deaf ears.

“When I changed the phone calls, it was because I was not getting respect as the chairman of this board,” he said. “When I called you and I was trying to have a relationship with all of the board members, I tried my best. You guys decided I was backing Jefferson and started pulling away from me.”

In turn, Chestnut said many of the board’s differences stemmed from an appearance by Hicks on a local radio show.

“I think it’s sad that it has come to this because of a lie,” Chestnut said. “This was all started with a lie that you told on 105.3 and you as a president should have done your due diligence.”

Hicks, visibly upset by Chestnut’s accusations, said he was the one who was the victim of lies, a feeling he said he made clear during a recent meeting.

“I told you I felt betrayed by you, I told you I felt like you had lied to me because you did,” Hicks said. “I put trust in you and you had the audacity to shake my hand, hold me on the back and say ‘brother, pray.’ The only thing I can say is don’t ever call me brother again.”

When addressing the crowd, many who made comments in support of Jefferson and against recent board actions, Chestnut said he hoped people would understand that he is simply doing what he feels is right and is open to feedback.

“Just because I don’t agree with (members of the audience), does not mean I don’t hear you and respect you,” Chestnut said. “I want you all to know I prayed about this and I had to make a choice to do the right thing.”
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