Disagreements among Liberty County School Board members regarding leadership training continue.
Dr. Yvette Keel and Carolyn Smith-Carter skipped Tuesday’s planning session despite being at the preceding workshop.
“I was not told they would not be attending so let that be reflected in the minutes,” board Chairwoman Lily Baker said about the session that members referred to as a retreat.
Both board members said the training programs the board is considering taking would waste taxpayer’s funds. They also added the retreat violated the open meetings act.
During the workshop the board approved LCSS Superintendent Dr. Franklin Perry’s contract. The retreat was set to address leadership training, Governance Team Assessment training, safety and signing bonuses.
Keel said the retreat was not properly announced according to open meetings laws. She said the retreat was scheduled in January and listed the superintendent evaluation instrument training as the agenda item.
However, the board had not been trained on the assessment, so Keel said she thought the retreat would be cancelled. Instead, Keel said, she learned last week that the retreat was still on, though on other matters. That change was another violation, Keel said.
“The board is supposed to work together to create the topics for retreats, however the board was not included,” she said.
Keel said the superintendent evaluation and board self-assessments were never properly addressed. She said back in 2010 the state enacted a law for school boards.
“They had to write a code of ethics or follow the state’s model of the code of ethics,” Keel said. “They had to put in place a conflict of interest policy. And school board members must be trained to write the superintendent evaluation instrument and evaluate the superintendent.”
Keel said the law gave local boards until 2011 to complete the processes.
Keel, who was elected in 2015, said the board had not completed the training nor did they seem to be aware of the law. She said Carter told the board they were non-compliant in 2015.
“Five years later,” she said.
Carter, who was elected in 2012, said she realized the board was in violation after returning from a National School Board convention.
“I called up the chair and said, ‘look we need to be trained,’” she said. “I said, ‘we are in violation of the law. We have not been trained to evaluate the superintendent.’”
“Since 2010 every superintendent evaluation has been invalid,” Keel said.
Carter said the board signed up for online training to comply.
“Some of them said it was a big waste of time,” Carter said. “Once again, they didn’t internalize the training. We have violated … time and time again because of not internalizing training, which is what I’ve been saying all along.”
Keel said evaluations written for former LCSS Superintendent Dr. Valya Lee were invalid and could have resulted in a bigger severance package than the one Lee took.
“The contract reads that after every year of successful evaluations a year is added to the contract,” Keel said, meaning Lee could have requested three years of severance pay.
She said the board chairwoman is now trying to move forward.
“We are now getting ready to hire and bring in the GSBA (state School Board Association) to train us on the self-assessment that Baker did wrong previously,” Keel said. “The self-assessment is part of the superintendent evaluation instrument training that they called a waste of time.”
Keel said superintendent evaluation training can’t be written if the self-assessment piece isn’t completed.
Baker said earlier evaluations were done properly, but at the Feb. 13 meeting she said recent ones were not done correctly because they didn’t have a superintendent in place. Now that Perry is officially the superintendent they can proceed and she’s asking the GSBA for training and guidance.
Baker said the governance team is again in place since Perry is superintendent.
“Dates were set to have the Georgia School Board Association come and provide governance team assessment training with the governance team,” Baker said. “GSBA will come and provide training for the team on April 24.”
Carter said board members have taken sufficient training the past three years, but it had little or no result. She said board members didn’t internalize training despite spending $57,000, and the bickering and what she called bullying continues.
Baker said the district’s yearly budget is more than $100 million and the $57,000 includes three years of training, dues, travel, registrations and fees for the seven board members.
“The community elected board members and expects board members to be educated,” Baker said. “The state requires some training that all board members must receive annually.”
At the retreat, the board listed topics they would like training on through UGA’s Carl Vinson Institute, which was ranked highest by board members at a Jan. 23 meeting.
Keel is questioning the timing since a recent visit by an accreditation team from AdvancED could make other recommendations.
AdvancED met with board members Jan. 29-31. Perry said no immediate feedback was offered, but he expects recommendations soon.
Baker confirmed the school board is still waiting to hear from AdvancED.
She said she hopes the district maintains accreditation.