School board hears allegations

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The attorney for Marshall County's school board has been asked to investigate allegations against some Central Office personnel that were sent to board members last week.

Schools director Roy Dukes sent out a memo called "Information for Board Members."

The memo - which has been rebuked as false and "absurd" - makes a number of allegations that would appear to indicate that, among other things:

* Former budget director Janet Wiles had not updated the Personal Information Recording System for three years, having taken over that responsibility from attendance supervisor Jackie Abernathy.

Dukes explained, "This reporting affects teacher employment status and their years of experience."

* Former human resources director Mitchell Byrd left paperwork uncompleted, and some employee files are missing. He apparently did not process a Federal Survey Report that was mailed to him in March.

* Student information was out of place and deleted from a student management system that would have "grossly affected our funding." The alternative school report was not submitted to the state.

The accused former Central-Office staff members quickly responded with one e-mail that school board member Barbara Kennedy read to the board.

"We would like to say that we are outraged at the accusations that imply that we have committed criminal offenses in addition to the other charges," the e-mail said. "None of these allegations could be further from the truth ... We would welcome the opportunity to discuss these absurd allegations with the board. In the meantime, we expect a retraction and a public apology."

Kennedy called the charges "baseless at best and ridiculous at most," but she nevertheless called for an investigation, and asked Sam Jackson, the board's attorney, to provide "an unbiased and professional opinion regarding the validity of these charges."

Board member Ann Tears was clearly shocked, and asked Dukes, "Will you go to these extremes on everything?"

"If I find areas not as they should be, it has to be reported to board members," Dukes answered.

Jackson agreed that the allegations are serious, and said he could make a report to board members before Oct. 11. The report will be confidential, protected by attorney-client privilege.

As for the cost of asking the attorney to investigate, Kennedy called it, "a cheap investment to see if we have exposure for a civil case."

Board members unanimously voted in favor of the motion to turn the investigation over to Jackson.