Dichiara warns Selma City School Board

Published 11:36 pm Saturday, June 14, 2014

The leader of the state team now in charge of the Selma City School System has warned some members of the Selma City School Board there are consequences for inappropriate behavior. 



Acting Selma Superintendent of Education Dr. Larry DiChiara sent a memorandum Friday to the Selma City School Board notifying certain members their actions are violating policies and procedures effective during a state intervention.

DiChiara said input of board members who continue to violate policies and procedures could be excluded from school board meetings until further notice.

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“I’m also trying to help them understand that when there are day-to-day decisions that have to be made, they should not be interfering. That’s not their role,” DiChiara said. “That’s not their job, but some of them are in the habit of doing that. I’m trying to help them break that habit, because that’s what contributed to us being here to start with.”

Members of the Selma City School Board have signed a code of conduct, which essentially lists school district’s policies and procedures, according to the memorandum.

Among the listed code of conduct violations were board members discussing confidential information with others, receiving complaints from staff or citizens and attempting to intervene or interfere without reporting the matter to the superintendent, failing to communicate with fellow board members in a spirit of harmony and cooperation, failure to communicate with fellow board members and the superintendent in a respectful and professional manner and taking actions that compromise the board or school system administration.

DiChiara said two votes during last Tuesday’s school board meeting were clear indications of board members going against intervention team proposals.

During the meeting, which four of the five members of the board attended, the board voted 2-to-2 on the proposal to name Aubrey Larkin the new principal of Selma High School and again on a proposal to name Shayla McCray the new principal at Clark Elementary School.

With the lack of a majority vote, both measures failed until DiChiara overrode the decisions and moved ahead with naming both of the new principals.

DiChaira was not at Tuesday’s meeting, nor was board member Frank Chestnut Jr.

DiChiara said those who voted against his recommendations went against the code of conduct.

According to the Pursuant to the Education Accountability and Intervention Act of 2013, DiChiara, as the chief administrative officer, has the authority to act for and on behalf of the city or county board of education and its superintendent during a state intervention.

DiChiara exercised that right by notifying State Superintendent of Education Dr. Tommy Bice he has overruled the 2-2 personal votes made during last Tuesday’s board meeting.

DiChiara did not identify any particular board members, but board president Henry Hicks Sr. and board member Udo Ufomadu voted in favor of all DiChiara’s recommendations on personnel, while members Brenda Obomanu and Dr. Kirit Chapatwalla voted against some of those recommendations.

DiChiara said he understands that it is easy to infringe upon the Code of Conduct unintentionally, but he’s witnessed some intentional breaches of the code since the state intervention began in February.

“If you do it intentionally, there should be a consequence, and the law does give us some of those consequences,” DiChiara said. “I have every intention to use every bit of authority that has been given to me to try to enforce that Alabama governess act.”

A formal censure or reprimand made against a board member and reported to Bice triggers a formal hearing before Bice, which could result in those particular board members no longer being eligible for future appointment, reappointment or election to any local board in the state, DiChiara said.

“[The intervention staff] prefers that all board members be involved in the process, but we need you to do so in a proper and ethical manner,” DiChiara wrote in the memorandum. “If I feel it necessary, I will suspend board meetings and carry on business as usual.”

Hicks said the Selma City School Board should cooperate with state intervention officials.

“[DiChiara] has the right to deal with the issues the way he feels is best of our system,” Hicks said. “I can’t sit here and say if it’s the right way, the wrong way or indifferent, but I can tell you I think we as a board should be able to work to together more conducive with them in things that we’re doing.”

Attempts to reach Chapatwalla, Obomanu, Chestnut and Ufomadu were unsuccessful.

In February, the Alabama State Board of Education made a unanimous decision to intervene in the Selma City School System after evidence from a state investigation into the school system revealed evidence of inappropriate sexual behavior, failure to enforce graduation requirement policies and a general disregard for instructional time.