Schools' HQ personnel chart fails

Friday, July 16, 2010

Two women who were briefly deputy directors of the Marshall County School System lost their titles on Monday when the school board voted against the organizational chart that included them.

Schools director Roy Dukes asked the board that night to approve his organizational chart that featured special education supervisor Lisa Ventura and federal projects director Linda Williams-Lee in the deputy director positions.

As soon as Dukes made the request, budget committee chairwoman Kristen Gold pointed out that the general purpose budget would have to be increased to include some of Ventura's and Williams-Lee's pay. Since the two would no longer be spending all their time on special education and federal matters, they could not be entirely paid out of those funds.

Neither had started performing their new duties, so Ventura and Williams-Lee were unable to estimate how much time the additional responsibilities might consume, and thus how much of their pay should come from the schools' general purpose budget.

"It disturbs me greatly," Gold said. "We can't go to the education committee (of the county commission) with unknowns in the budget."

Board members Barbara Kennedy and Harvey Jones Jr. complained the organizational chart had not been distributed before the meeting so they'd have a chance to think about it and explore all the implications.

"There's too much mud in the water," Kennedy said.

Board member Ann Tears sprang to Dukes' defense. "He's doing what we asked him to do," she exclaimed. "Every time he brings something back it's shot down."

"I wasn't shooting it down," Gold protested. "We just need all the information."

"We need to let Dukes do his job," board member Curt Denton said, as he attempted to put the meeting back on track with a motion, seconded by board member Dee Dee Owens, to approve the organizational chart.

The motion was defeated 5-4, with Denton, Owens, Tears and Craig Michael voting "yes," while Gold, Jones, Kennedy, Randy Perryman and Mike Keny voted "no."

"Where does that put us now?" Tears asked after the vote.

"Another proposal included an assistant director," Dukes said, handing out a different version of the organizational chart.

"I need to know what the position costs," Gold said. "I don't have a budget to take right now."

At this point, the board had been in session for nearly three hours. The members unanimously agreed to recess the meeting until 5 p.m. Tuesday, hoping to get a budget finalized before the education committee's meeting at 6 p.m.

"Which of the org (organizational) charts would benefit the system?" Owens asked when the meeting re-convened.

"We voted down the deputy directors," Dukes said. "That left us with the assistant director. That could be a good fit."

Owens moved to add an assistant director to the budget at $89,000 per year, plus benefits, and her motion was seconded by Michael.

Keny confirmed with Dukes that "anybody" could apply for the job.

After some discussion, Owens' motion was amended for an annual salary of $83,000 for an assistant director, and that plan passed 6-3 with Gold, Jones and Kennedy voting "no."

Gold and the new budget director, Sheila Cook-Jones, quickly prepared revised budget numbers to take to the education committee.