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BOE controversy continues

While Liberty County school board member Marcus Scott continues to level accusations of misconduct at fellow board members and Superintendent Dr. Valya Lee, a principal caught up in some of the controversy seems to want no part of it.

The principal, Roland Van Horn of Snelson-Golden, said "I am not built for politics," in an email in which he apparently asked to be reassigned.

Meanwhile, Scott now claims Lee and the BOE wrongly excluded him from an executive session and are in violation of Board of Education policy.

The BOE excluded Scott from an executive session during a called meeting Feb. 14. The written minutes of that meeting and the regular meeting that followed have yet to be posted.

Additionally, while video from the regular meeting is on the BOE website, video from the called meeting that preceded it has not been posted.

Scott discussed that during his weekly radio show, which also streams live on his Facebook page.

"They voted me out of a board meeting, which is not possible," he said during his broadcast. "So instead of just saying we did the wrong thing, they don’t want that video to be released."

Scott said the BOE policy is that all meetings be videotaped and placed on the website for public view. In an email, he alleged, "there was so many things done incorrectly they have not posted it."

During his radio show, Scott alleged the BOE is attempting to change the notes of the executive session to cover up their mistake.

"The executive minutes are not in order," he said. "They are putting it to where they are trying to say I was in that meeting now. And I told them to make sure to note, in the executive minutes, that I wasn’t in the meeting, because I wasn’t."

Scott also has accused Lee and the BOE of retaliating against him and people close to him. Last week, Scott publicly announced the demotion of Van Horn, which hasn’t

been confirmed nor announced by school officials. Van Horn declined to respond to questions but did share a statement sent out to the school’s staff.

"You may have already heard that there has been a tentative decision made regarding my future as Principal of Snelson-Middle School," it said. "While I am not at liberty to discuss particulars at this juncture, please be advised that, the Superintendent and Board of Education are working with me to get through circumstances that resulted in the decision. I love the Liberty County School System, and I am grateful to Superintendent and the Board for their support. Additional information is forthcoming. Until such time, our focus will be to finish the year totally devoted to meeting our goals to increase Lexile measures, increase end of grade performance and decrease office referrals. Due to privacy concerns, I will not respond to any questions regarding the decision, nor will I share any opinions. My personal aim is to make the final 14 weeks of the year all about the students."

Scott, who runs a travel basketball program, said the BOE accused him of misusing the gym at SGMS and is scapegoating Van Horn.

"(When) they realized they had nothing…they dropped that,"

Lee said the issue is being looked into.

"There is a matter pending," she said. "It has been reported to the proper authorities. Please be advised that I have no other comment regarding the matter."

In documents obtained by the Courier through an open records request, Vanhorn had a few email exchanges with Jason Rogers, executive director of maintenance and operations, and Lee, which seem to indicate Vanhorn might not have been clear on policies on the use of facilities.

It also was Van Horn who requested to be reassigned upon his return from a trip to Atlanta the Monday and Tuesday before the meeting of Feb. 14.

"I promise to be the best science teacher in the county," he wrote in an email. "I would finish the year and then quietly move on. Privately I will confess I am not built for the politics and what I perceive as the poker game. I want to improve SGMS but too many obstacles for me to deal with."

Controversy began when former LCSS Chief Financial Officer Roger Reese threatened to sue Lee and the BOE after citing violation of policy in regards to sealed bids for banking services.

Reese’s attorney, Matthew Billips, alleges in a Jan. 18 letter that Lee violated BOE policy with regard to bids and has threatened him with termination for going to BOE chairwoman Lily Baker to complain. Reese alleges Lee tried to coerce him to change his recommendation to Ameris Bank, where Lee’s husband works, but he would not.

Scott, who voted against using Ameris Bank, questioned the handling of the proposals and asked why Baker did not tell the board Reese had spoken to her regarding the matter, prior to the school board’s vote on the issue Jan. 10. Scott’s was the only vote against the measure.

On Feb. 15, Lee received a letter from AdvancED, the powerful school accreditation group saying allegations have been made against the school board with regard to how it selected its financial institution and that it interferes with the day to day operations of the system. The letter also notes similar complaints were lodged against the system in July.

This week, Billips said Reese has not been paid since he was placed on administrative leave and for all intent and purpose has been fired. The LCSS web-site said Janine Graham is the interim director of finance.

An agenda for Tuesday’s 9 a.m. meeting includes discussion of allegations against BOE members, including Baker. She has denied any wrongdoing by the BoE.

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