Schools Director spared reprimand

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

County school board members nearly issued an official reprimand on Monday night to the director of schools they hired nearly 11 months ago.

Board member Barbara Kennedy's motion to reprimand Roy Dukes failed 5-3, with only Kristen Gold, who seconded the motion, Harvey Jones, and Kennedy voting for it.

"I don't like doing this, but I have exhausted my resources," Kennedy said to start the discussion of an item she put on the agenda as new business.

Kennedy told the other board members that three people, two federal projects personnel and the grant writer, had received pay raises starting July 1, without authority from the board.

In allowing the raises, Kennedy said, Dukes had violated board policy number 5.110 which states, "The director of schools shall establish the salary rating of each person employed and shall recommend such salary rating to the board for its approval."

Kennedy said Dukes had also violated state law by putting a salary increase into effect when the school system does not have a budget.

Board member Ann Tears defended Dukes, saying the situations "arose before he took over. It's not right to reprimand him for something he had no control over."

"The reason is irrelevant," Kennedy asserted. "His contract says he will abide by board policy and state law. As his employers, we're responsible."

"This board doesn't have all the information," Tears countered. "It doesn't warrant a reprimand."

Randy Perryman tried to be a peacemaker, asking, "Can we back up and straighten this out? Put the salaries back where they were?"

"They've already been paid," Kennedy said. "State law's been violated and we're all on the hook."

Jones reluctantly agreed with her, saying, "I don't want to do it, but I don't see we have a choice. Like Randy, I'd like to back up and make it right."

Gold was concerned about the lack of communication, and lack of information being passed to the board.

"It goes back to keeping your board informed," she said.

In a roll call, Kennedy's motion for a reprimand failed, with only Gold and Jones joining her in the "yes" vote.

Perryman's motion to instruct Dukes to put the salaries back the way they were and bring them to the board for discussion was carried unanimously.

According to chairman Mike Keny, board members will hold a work session in the next two weeks to work on the salary schedule, having set themselves the goal of completing this by September.

At the September meeting, the board is set to welcome new member Donnie Moses, who defeated Craig Michael for the District 9 seat. A plaque honoring Michael's years of service was presented to his wife Vickie, a teacher at Oak Grove Elementary School. Michael did not attend what would have been his last school board meeting, and Kennedy appears to have become the board member who asks the tough questions.