VIDEO: Employee organizations speak out at DeKalb County Board of Education meeting
April 28, 2017 Share

VIDEO: Employee organizations speak out at DeKalb County Board of Education meeting

PHOTO:  The DeKalb County Board of Education and Superintendent Jason Barnett discuss the possibility of purchasing a new special needs bus. (Tyler Pruett | Southern Torch)

By Tyler Pruett, Managing Editor

tyler@southerntorch.com

(Full Video at the bottom)

RAINSVILLE, Ala. — At last night’s meeting of the DeKalb County Board of Education, representatives of the DeKalb Educators Association (DEA) and the Educational Support Professionals Organization (ESPO) spoke out about being removed from the meeting’s minutes, in lieu of being given time during the work session, which takes place before the regular meeting, and isn’t included in the minutes.

DEA representative Laura Hill pointed out the issue after the financial items were approved towards the beginning of the meeting.

“Who makes the agenda?” Hill asked.

“By Section 60 of the Alabama code, the superintendent acts as the both the chief executive of the school district, and the secretary to the board, so basically the board sets the agenda,” Superintendent Jason Barnett replied.

“From the time the last meeting is over, we compile human resources reports, in my capacity as a secretary to the board. We compile human resources, resignations, those sort of things, new hires, contracts, things like that,” Barnett explained.

“Can we make it official that ESPO and DEA be permanently on the agenda in case anything comes up?” asked Hill.

“We want member organizations to have the opportunity to speak. I certainly would never want to limit that. We want your input, we want your feed back, and we want good, positive relationships with them. I think every time we have a meeting, we definitely want you guys to have a voice and to be heard,” responded Barnett.

“In my opinion, the conversations in the work session are more productive,”  Barnett went on to say.

Mary Jo Chandler, head of the ESPO for DeKalb County Schools then addressed the same concern to the board:

“Support people and teachers feel like this is a benefit to address the board each month. It was given to us as a benefit,” said Chandler. “We feel like that was a benefit, and we feel like our benefit is being taken away. I’ve talked to numerous support people and teachers, and we feel like we need to be left on the agenda.”

“I hope you understand if you take us off the agenda, somewhere down the road, someone will say, ‘ya’ll hadn’t been on the agenda in years, why should we put you back on it?’ so we should have an agreement, that we’ll discuss everything in the work session if possible, but to be put back on the agenda,” Chandler explained.

“If we lose this benefit, we feel like, ‘what are we gonna lose next?'” said Chandler.

Chandler also related that she had been accused of bringing things up that were personal in nature, to which she explained:

“If I’ve got something to say, ya’ll know me well enough to know, I’m going to come say it if it’s personal. But when it comes to our people, always the children, my children, are very personal, and so is my support people,” she said.

“I guess I’ve been here so long, they are personal, they are my family, and they are very dear to me. I’d also like to ask, who took us off the agenda to start with?” Chandler asked.

Board member Randy Peppers responded: “In a formal board meeting, when you address the board, it is not a time for dialogue, it’s not a time for you to ask questions of the board, we all go to training, we go to AASB stuff, and they tell us best practices are, when someone addresses the board, you allow them to address the board. There is not a response from the board, they don’t get to ask you questions, you don’t dialogue back and forth. That’s why we took it out of the agenda and moved it to the work session.”

“We want dialogue, we want back and forth. That’s why we moved it to the work session,” said Peppers.

“Well it was very upsetting for us to get here and not be on the agenda, and you apologized for that, but you know, it was very upsetting. And I hope ya’ll can see the point,” said Chandler.

After the meeting, Chandler and Hill Clarified their concerns:

“We’ve been on the agenda for a long, long time. We have time in the work session to speak, but it’s not included in the minutes. If anything comes up, they could hide it and the public won’t know,” said Chandler.

“The ESPO and the DEA has been on the agenda every meeting for 28 years, and it’s upsetting to us that we were taken off. We didn’t know until we arrived for the meeting, and had to have it added back to the agenda,” explained Hill.

Barnett explained the board’s position on the matter after the meeting: “We did this to increase dialogue. We want back and forth. We can’t do much of that during the meeting portion, and this gives them more of a chance to discuss their concerns with the board.”

After this exchange, the board and superintendent retired for about 30 – 40 minutes in executive session for the purpose of discussing real property.

After returning, the board accepted the early graduation of Hannah Peppers of Geraldine. Peppers is a student at Geraldine School.

“This is quite the accomplishment, finishing school a year early. I believe you’re the second person in DeKalb County to ever do this,” said Barnett.

Superintendent Jason Barnett and board members with Hannah Peppers of Geraldine, who completed school a year early. (Tyler Pruett | Southern Torch)

After accepting the early graduation, the board covered non-renewals and retirements, leaves of absences, placements, contracts, and the Superintendent’s Report (See the video below).

The next meeting of the DeKalb County Board of Education will be held on May 25, at 5 pm, with the work session starting at 4 pm.

Watch the Full Video:

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