School board members were warned by their attorney Tuesday that decisions must soon be made on complaints filed against the school system with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Mediation on five of the complaints is scheduled for Feb. 8 in Nashville, according to the board's lawyer, Sam Jackson, who asked that a board member "with a working knowledge of the budget" be at the mediation meeting.
Also Tuesday, board member Donnie Moses was named to succeed Dee Dee Owens as chairman of the budget committee, and Jackson suggested him as a good person to go to the mediation.
"His wife is a complainant," Curt Denton said.
"Oh, I forgot!" Jackson exclaimed.
Denton continued, "I hear you saying we're going to pay these folks."
"It is," Jackson replied, "usually about money. I'm not comfortable going to mediation if we're not going to offer anything. I need to have the ability to make some kind of offer; it's not binding until the Board (and the County Commission) votes."
"If it's resolved, money will be changing hands," he added. "I will try to get you the best settlement I can."
There are two possible reactions to a complaint filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Jackson said, naming them as response or mediation. In executive session, the Board had decided on mediation.
"If mediation is successful, there's no court case," Jackson told them.
He acknowledged that the school board might not have any spare money in their budget to pay EEOC complainants, and said, "You may have to go to the County Commission for all of it."
Management personnel can also be present at a mediation, so it was agreed that schools director Roy Dukes and budget director Sheila Cook-Jones would attend.
"We need up-to-date year-to-date numbers" in order to know if there's any money available, Barbara Kennedy said.
Board member Kristin Gold, who served as chairman of the budget committee until committee assignments changed last fall, offered to help.
"I don't mind working with Ms. Cook-Jones and Mr. Dukes to get an idea where we are," Gold said.
Focusing board members' attention, Jackson told them, "We have nine pending claims. I had an unsuccessful mediation last week."
When asked why board members hadn't been informed about this, Jackson implied that it was for a small amount, a few thousand dollars, while the upcoming ones were for more than $100,000.
"I feel like our hands are tied," protested Denton. "I feel at a disadvantage here."