The Liberty County Board of Education held two meetings Tuesday in addition to a press conference to address contract adjustments for Superintendent Dr. Valya Lee.
The board held a called meeting at 2 p.m. Tuesday to discuss its guidelines of operation. Board chairwoman Lily Baker said that the meeting was called after a board training session and retreat with the Georgia School Board Association.
According to Baker, the board was advised that it needed to develop a communication plan and a code of conduct that included sanctions. The meeting was called to begin developing those documents.
Baker said she had been advised that the Liberty County BoE was free to view other Georgia school districts’ communication plans in order to develop its own plan, and that GSBA officials had provided her copies of various other districts’ plans to facilitate the process.
Board members mulled over the samples, discussing phrases they felt needed tweaking before being adopted, as well as talking through interpretations of various points.
The board also discussed guidelines for communication between board members, the superintendent, school staff and administration, and the board’s attorney.
Baker said that discussing matters with the board’s attorney outside of executive session was “never appropriate,” referencing an apparent incident at a conference in Macon.
“We’re only the board when we’re all together in a session,” Baker said, emphasizing that individual board members do not represent the full board.
Lee said that it is common practice for the superintendent to contact the board’s attorney when needed, unless the matter concerns the superintendent, in which case the board chair should contact the attorney.
After a short recess, the board reconvened to discuss the GSBA governance team self-assessment, which board members already had completed individually.
For each section, board members were prompted to respond with “Satisfactory,” “Needs improvement” or “Don’t know.” Although most board members responded with “Satisfactory” to most questions, some responses of “Needs improvement” were discussed.
Both Baker and board member Becky Carter, for instance, had given responses of “Needs improvement” for questions relating to communication. Though Baker said that her responses related to the board’s written communication plan, which is currently being drafted, Carter said her responses referenced the recent incident of Lee’s salary adjustment being excluded from the meeting’s minutes.
Carter also said that her responses related to press members' access to board meeting packets.
“Every (response of ‘Needs improvement’) goes back to transparency,” Carter said. “I think with this issue that happened, I think that we collectively take responsibility for it, as superintendent and as board members.”
Baker responded by saying that she felt the board had taken responsibility for its mistake, and that it was never the intention of the board to exclude the action from the minutes.
Board member Marcia Anderson added that the responsibility should fall solely on the board members, stating that Lee was not “one iota” responsible for the mistake.
“Dr. Lee wasn’t there. (Executive assistant Dee Dyer) wasn’t there. They type what we give them,” she said. “This is on our heads.”
“I’ve never known this board to do anything out of the sight of the public intentionally,” Anderson added.
Lee responded by saying that members of the press were, in fact, privy to board meeting packets, and that she would resume transmitting the documents electronically as she had done in the past.
The board convened once again for its regular monthly meeting at 5:30 p.m.
Action items included the approval of occupational-therapy and physical-therapy services, as well as services for the visually impaired. Neither action will have any impact on the district’s general funds, as both are being financed through special education VI-B funds.
The board also heard a petition presented by Clay Sikes and Liberty County Commissioner Gary Gilliard, on behalf of the Liberty County High School Alumni Association and the Liberty County Board of Commissioners.
“We represent a group of citizens of Liberty County that want to request the naming of Olvey Field in honor of former Bradwell Institute coach Hokey Jackson,” Gilliard said.
Sikes then explained the impact that Jackson had on the lives of many Liberty Countians, including former Hinesville Mayor Allen Brown, Hinesville City Manager Billy Edwards, Hinesville Mayor Pro-Tem Charles Frasier and Liberty County Sheriff Steve Sikes, all of whom were in attendance.
“Our interest in having this done goes well beyond (Jackson’s) football record,” Sikes said. “The men that he shaped and the things that he implanted into us as young men, to grow up with a set of standards and ideals that, I think, have all together changed us as individuals, but, to some extent, shaped this community.”
Baker then clarified that the petition was to have the stadium at Olvey Field named for Jackson, not Olvey Field itself.
Baker said that the board would discuss the matter with the superintendent before giving an official response.