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Liberty school board members express frustrations at GSBA retreat

Liberty County School System Superintendent Dr. Franklin Perry and school board members, Lily Baker, Verdell Jones, Dr. Yvette Keel, Marcia Anderson and Carol Guyett had frank discussions about the board during a retreat Tuesday morning. 

The board met with Georgia School Board Association Director of Field Services Zenda Bowie, who guided the board through the various “domain topics” that school board members are bound by law to follow. 

It was evident some board members thought not everyone on the board followed the rules, and questioned how to address members who break them.  

Bowie explained that the actions of one board member reflected on the entire board.

“What one board members does the rest are accountable for,” Bowie said. 

Board members vented their concerns. 

Anderson wanted to know how the board should handle clear violations of ethics by a board member who speaks freely on board matters every week on their social media program. Keel mentioned the board has been in violation of the open meetings act several times for addressing matters during executive session that should have been done in public session or did not pertain to the subject listed on the agenda.

Baker said the public’s perception of the board is that the members are constantly bickering. Jones agreed, asking what they could do to showcase accomplishments they’ve made in student achievement.

“Our problems are internal,” Jones said. “But if you look at our track record as a board we have done many positive things.”

Bowie said she was aware the board had issues. 

“You are not on the board to represent your neighborhood or constituents,” she said. “Your focus needs to be on the students.”

Bowie said it was up to each board member to address when topics are straying off the agenda, especially in executive session, by calling for a point of order. Failing to do so is a liability risk for the board, she said.

Baker said the board needs to start working as a team.

“Can we let go of what has happened in the past?” she asked of board members. “Can we please move forward from here on out as a team.”

The board has been embroiled in controversy since the firing of former LCSS chief financial officer Roger Reese last year. It continued as the board released former Superintendent Dr. Valya Lee. Scott has said board members have taken action against him for being in support of Reese and, more recently, for requesting a forensic audit. Members of the board have said Scott has violated code of ethics policies and filed reports that are still being investigated by the Georgia Professional Standards Commission.

Board members’ behavior prompted action by AdvancED, the school system’s accrediting agency. 

After the retreat, the Courier obtained a copy of a letter Keel distributed to her constituents in District 6. In it, she details what she described as unethical, illegal and immoral behavior by board members “To meet their hidden agendas and protect their selected staff,” she wrote.

Keel said she was the whistle blower who filed complaints about the board’s behavior to AdvancED and also filed letters with the state attorney general’s office.

She said she has also filed letters with the Georgia Professional Standards Commission and twice met with city leaders. She added she filed simple assault charges against a board member, calling it “adult bullying and harassment.”

Keel said the school sytem’s accreditation is in jeopardy.

“However, the law is written that if one member of the board is suspended, all sitting board members are suspended regardless of guilt,” she wrote. “If this occurs, I will appeal to the governor to be reinstated because I am the whistle blower. I‘ve given proof of the acts of poor stewardship of taxpayers’ dollars by board members in this investigation and legal violation of the code of ethics.” 

Dr. Keel Letter page 1
Dr. Keel letter page 2
Dr. Keel letter page 3
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