LIVE BLOG: Board of Education Special Legislative Meeting – Monday, December 10, 2012
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3:08pm – Board members Kinnane, YJohnson, Muhammad and English have all entered the room. Awaiting the arrival of other members.
3:17pm – All BOE members and the superintendent have arrived.
3:19: Meeting called to order
English has asked for additional discussion around the superintendent search. Motion carries. That item will be taken up after agenda item 1.02.
View today’s agenda here: http://www.boarddocs.com/ga/aps/Board.nsf/files/92UKKJ523FCE/$file/Special%20Meeting%2012102012-2.pdf
Kinnane reads into the agenda a resolution that urges Congress and the Admin to mitigate the cuts to ed scheduled to occur in January.
PUBLIC COMMENT (Please note that this is a summary of comments) :
Speaker: Shawna Hayes Tavares – The main agenda item today is whether we will extend the Supt.’s contract and a lot of us support that action. Do we believe Erroll Davis is a perfect man, no he is not. Do we believe any of you are perfect, no you are not. As we did a deep dig on APS we learned that we had a lot of issues from fiduciary to special needs. I think we are on the right track as it relates to APS. We have made a lot of changes (leadership, alignment, cluster model) to turn the tide would not be productive. Do we think he will be here for another 10 years, certainly not, but he has made great changes. I don’t want to go backwards, I want to go forward.
Speaker: Chris Murphy – I know Supt. Davis has made some mistakes, I think the NAHS situation was handled clumsily but I know that NAHS has some of the same problems high schools across the city has with graduation rates. But I watched him go through the redistricting process and he was transparent and it was probably the best thing that has happened to this school district. It had great results. We have seem much positive academic and personnel movement in the Jackson cluster and this is not because of the board’s actions, but because of Mr. Davis’ action. We have Supt. Davis to thank for our Jackson principal.
Speaker: I am here on behalf on SEACS. The SEACS board which includes all the schools feeding into Jackson HS supports the 2 year renewal of the contract of Superintendent Erroll Davis. The changes implemented by his team have been positive to our cluster. We commend the APS Board for their forward thinking in hiring an administrator who would make decisions based on data, not politics.
Speaker: Let me say that I’m here to voice my disappointment but not surprise over the actions of the BOE. Only after a full investigation has been completed, should you consider any action to replace the superintendent (referencing NAHS). If there is nothing to hide, let there be an investigation and let those involved know that there will be no further intimidation. Let’s be sure that all of our children are given the opportunity to live up to their full potential.
Speaker: I am here to speak in support or Mr. Davis and to ask BOE members to vote yes on the extension of his contract. Not to say that everything is resolved or perfect, but I think we are in a good place and that is the result of Mr. Davis’ leadership. He has demonstrated that he is fair and strong leadership overall. That’s what we need now, strong leadership. I ask that you do what is right for our city. If there is any question about the right thing to do, please consider our Mayor’s views on this.
Speaker: I am a product of APS, and I come tonight very troubled. I come here troubled by the fact that there is a conspiracy brewing in the city and among the BOE for the removal of Mr. Davis. You think about where this conspiracy came from and its called institutionalized racism. That is the kind of racism that institutions use to circumvent civil rights laws. Those who have attacked Davis are the same people who were praising him a few months ago in the handling of the school board cheating. Some of you have never experienced racism, but some of you have and think about that and also where I came from, a little “colored school” that sat in the Dixie Hills neighborhood. Your votes will be on social media – years from now people will know how you cast your vote. If you have the gumption and guts to admit to the fact that this is institutionalized racism you will vote to extend his contract.
Speaker: I spent 35 years as a high school teacher and one of my goals as a retiree is to support education. I have watched as central office members became visibly relieved when they found out that someone at the top was listening to them. Too many educational reforms have failed because things were rushed and I don’t think 6 months is enough time to find a new leader.
Speaker: I would like to say that institutionalized racism is happening here. You all stood with Davis through the tough times of redistricting, transportation….but one school put all of you into shivers. We need to know and document how all of you vote. Your vote to remove him says let’s keep business as usual. If it comes down to one community and one school making decisions for everybody, then why do we have you? Mr. Davis and I have not agreed on a whole lot of things, but it was never personal. I see now that he has a plan. He has the guts to get the job done. Send a message clearly that one school is not going to run anything in this system.
Speaker: Mary Palmer – I’m really surprised that we are here today feeling the need to tell this board publicly how we feel about extending his contract for one or two years. Wasn’t it less than 2 years ago that members of this board voted for Mr. Davis to be superintendent? Mr. Davis has put processes in place to ensure that all students receive an equitable education. I ask you to consider what’s truly best for all students of APS as you make your decision today. Is a new interim or super what our system needs? We have so much work to continue on behalf of our children. Please, extend the contract of Mr. Davis.
Speaker: Cynthia Brown – One thing about democracy is that people like Ms. Tavares and I can disagree. Racism works in all directions, you know, and if you want a community judged by the content of their character we need you to do what you need to do. Last week I urged you not to appoint any interim. I’ve also urged you to go ahead and find a superintendent and look at available candidates. You are charged with setting policy and setting the direction of schools for every child in the district and you need to do that free of any outside influence and political agendas. If you have a conflict of interest, if you can not enter into this vote free of personal gain or any other issue that prevents you from acting in the best of every child you should not vote today. I ask you to search your conscious, work together and towards stability. I ask you to locate a new superintendent on a 7-2 vote.
Speaker: To consider not renewing his contract is suspicious. I think he should be given his full extension of 2 years. I believe that he has shown the will to have an open door.
Speaker: Ms. Shaw – I am concerned about Davis leaving because I think he went in, saw something wrong and had the courage to take a stance. We must send the message that not only do we support you but we support the changes you need to make. If you vote not to renew him, understand that you are saying that this is what you will do when you don’t get your way.
End of public comment.
Item 1.02 now being discussed. Mr. Johnson expresses concern about the board making policy around issues that would tie the hands of the administration. Butler-Burks asks that the BOE take a look at the work done in the past that served as a working document for these types of issues but was never made into a policy.
Motion to approve on the floor. Carries.
Search committee discussion for new superintendent now beginning.
English: One of the things we shared and understand is that we should do more work around what the search should look like. I know we can’t take action now but we should engage in discussion, time tables, the overall look so that in January we can hit the ground running. That was my thought behind adding it to the agenda.
McDaniel: We did talk about having a robust conversation at our January meeting and in order to do that I was going to ask Dr. Grant to get information to BOE members such as individual names of those you may want to have on the search committee along with rationale, number needed, etc. I would ask that Dr. Grant send out that information. Also I think 3 organizations should be represented by the search committee.
Meister: I would like to add to that the scope of work, checks and balances and what we expect.
English: We’ve done a lot of this work before. I’m looking at Dr. Kirijan. To the extent that we could come back in January and look at what that bucket of work looks like or you can send it to us so we can hit the ground in January.
McDaniel asks that Dr. A. Kirijan, head of Organizational Advancement, send the BOE information used when they entered into the last superintendent search.
McDaniel: I would prefer that you assemble the RFP’s and ask that the BOE members come in over the next 10 days to rank….. (not audiable)
YJohnson: I think she was asking if we are on schedule.
Dr. Grant: We are on schedule now, but a 10 day review would make us off schedule.
YJohnson: My concern would be that we don’t do anything to extend the timeline. Is there a way that we can do anything that is consistent with the schedule.
Dr. Grant: The ranking was to take place tomorrow through the 13th, but what we’re doing is adding another week so that BOE members can do the ranking….but that should not throw us off of our January timeline. We will ensure that come January you would be able to make a recommendation.
McDaniel: Is everyone ok with that timeline? (no objections made)
Board members have not suggested any other items for discussion.
Item 1.03 – Refer to the BOE’s policy committee a discussion and revision to the Board’s voting requirements; specifically referring to the hiring of a superintendent.
YJohnson: My understanding is that we voted on this issue last week. So this is so that there would be how it would be handled going forward?
McDaniel: Item 1.03 is about going forward.
Kinnane: Regardless as to whether you felt about it during this vote I think that we decided during our SACS work that this was….this wasn’t a rule that we just pulled out of the air. This was one that we had decided upon as a board.
McDaniel: As you recall, we got a memo from Dr. Kirijan that the work around our SACS work was around that superintendent vote. We did not put into place what we would do…. (moving forward).
Kinnane: That’s fine, I’m just saying that it raises the question as to if we think its a best practice. All we were doing with that vote (last week) was affirming the work we did with SACS.
McDaniel disagrees. Last week Ms. Meister made a decision around this superintendent’s….but it is not affirmation around this specific instance. So what I’m trying to do is have the policy committee provide a recommendation as to what is best practices.
Kinnane: I certainly appreciate that we can disagree. I would like to state that the 7-2 vote seems to be interpreted as a reaction to NAHS, which is confusing to me, I think the vote for it was just stating that we were going to go along and keep with what we were going to do during our SACS work. I get worried when I hear that the vote was taken around other issues.
McDaniel: With your vote?
Kinnane: With the vote itself.
McDaniel: My no vote was not turning my back on the SACS work we did at the time.
Vote passes with no opposition
Item 1.04 up now.
Butler Burks asks that the BOE takes executive session for student items and personnel.
4:27pm Agreed. The BOE will now enter into executive session.
5:43pm Meister, Y Johnson, Muhammad and English have all returned to the board room.
5:54pm Supt. Davis has returned as well.
6:06pm Kinnane has returned to the Board Room.
6:16pm Executive session continues.
6:29pm Ms. Butler-Burks has returned.
6:56pm Awaiting the return of the BOE chair and the live blog will continue.
7:00pm Board has returned. Live blog will now continue.
We are waiting for Ms. Johnson and Mr. English to return. Other board members are now seated.
7:04pm Ms. Johnson has returned.
7:06pm All board members are now seated.
The board has reconvened.
McDaniel – It has been brought to my attention that in regards to 1.03, we can not as a 5-4 impose a supermajority vote without the supermajority suspending the rules. We should take that into consideration.
YJohnson: Can you repeat that?
McDaniel – Our policies show that we follow Roberts Rules and RR says that in order to change to 7-2 is in opposition to what RR’s say. I think that we should be aware of the risk and that someone could contest.
YJohnson: I would dispute that by saying that if this board decides to do that then this board can resolve it in a way we see fit.
Meister: Prior to making that motion last week I did speak with General Counsel and that was never brought up.
Kinnane: When we had first done it and said it has to be 7-2 for a super during our SACS work we did not suspend.
McDaniel: I was not chair then, but we should have suspended our rules at that time.
Kinnane: We took a vote then and it did turn out to be unanimous.
McDaniel: There are restrictions to protect the majority and the minority inside of the process of RR’s.
YJohnson: Absent some legal opinion I am uncomfortable with saying that. Before you put that out there as something that we did, I would want a legal opinion.
McDaniel: I was made of this this afternoon and I am making the board aware of this and I will make sure this is properly vetted.
YJohnson: Let’s just not put that out there as the rule absent some legal opinion.
McDaniel: We will move on to 1.04
Amos: I would like to make a motion to extend the supt’s contract for up to 2 years with 2 triggers. The first trigger would be a 90 day trigger initiated upon the hiring of a super, the second trigger would be a 90 day trigger dependent upon the majority of the board vote as the board desires.
Kinnane: Triggers what?
Muhammad: The 90 days and 90 days is that up to 2 years or up to 2 years.
Amos: That’s not counted in the two years.
McDaniel: If we hired a perm super or had a 5-4 vote the contract would trigger within 90 days. One is an automatic trigger upon the hiring of a superintendent, the other is a trigger based on the board’s 5-4 decision. If we hire a superintendent tomorrow, the contract would become a 90 day contract.
Muhammad: When we say up to 2 years are we counting the 6 months in the contract now?
Muhammad: The existing 6 months. We’re talking the additional 2 years. We’re talking 2 1/2 years.
Someone says “up to”
Muhammad: I’m glad you are mentioning the fact that he has another 6 months because some people thought his contract ended this month.
Butler-Burks: I think one of the things we all would understand, the public as well, is around the fact that we are taking the search seriously moving forward, having the 90 day trigger. If we identify someone and they can’t start within the 90 days we need to be respectful of that too.
McDaniel: It would seem to me that the 5-4 vote trigger would be a 90 day trigger and the hiring would be a minimum of 90 days.
Muhammad: It has never been an issue as to whether this board has wanted to extend the superintendent’s contract, I’m not going to say that somebody did not, but the majority of this board…. He’s been a man of his word, a breath of fresh air, he’s taken on major challenges, some of the things… he’s made some mistakes along the way but who doesn’t and who does not. I am prepared to support him. I’ve said it since day one. I have some problems with 2 years or 2 1/2 years because I made a commitment to the public to seek diligently a superintendent. I talked to the super some time ago and conveyed my opinion that I can support a year with a 90 day out. That’s where I am. It’s nothing different from anything that I’ve said before. I’m disappointed that different options were not given to the superintendent and given back to us. This has turned into something totally different as if we were not in favor of supporting his contract…it was just the terms of what was in the contract. I think it was important to clarify that.
Kinnane: I too was a little worried that we were not taken into consideration as a board. We have the responsibility for preparing for a permanent solution. It’s not a healthy way for a system to live. That was our struggle. That’s where the conflict is. The other concern is to our responsibility of how we handled this process. We started a search. Suspended and hired Davis. Renewed for a year. Now it looks like we’re doing a bit of an end-run around the process. I don’t know Ms. Pitts if you have any opinion about the manner of how we’re doing it. This gets us to four years…
Pitts: I’m having a difficult time understanding the question you’re asking. Are you asking are you authorized to do it? The board can extend up to 3 years from the end of this contract. You just couldn’t do beyond a 3 year contract.
McDaniel: We’ve had two 1 year contracts an this would be a 2 year contract.
Kinnane: Perception wise….
McDaniel: From my perspective we are well within where we need to be perception wise.
Butler-Burks: We’ve heard a lot of comments from the public via comment and emails. One voice I want to make sure we’ve heard are our APS staff, teachers and principals. I think that the up to 2 years with very strong trigger points will say that we’ve heard every aspect of the community’s voice as well as our teachers and staff.
McDaniel: I think what Mr. Amos has on the table gives us the most flexibility and allows us to look for a permanent super without a long term burden of a long term contract. If we can’t do this we can allow the next board to do this work in the way they would like to do it. Make sure we can do the work we can do to find a great superintendent, and hae the flexibility from a system perspective. I believe the 2 years with the clauses gives us flexibility to get the best opportunity to get a group of candidates in here that we can select from.
Muhammad: We all think that this superintendent has done a great job. But I want to know if anyone has ever asked if you were interested in the permanent position.
Davis: No one has asked me. permanent is a difficult word. The average life of an urban super is 2.9. If you are asking if I want to make this a career, the answer is no, I’ve had enough careers. Are there things that remain to be done, the answer is yes, specifically with career academies. I don’t have aspirations or desires, but I appreciate your asking.
Kinanne: (talks about Davis and a job well done) I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that there were some concerns, coming from one community but shared by many communities. We’re all struggling with the fact that we have concerns but you have the right to make decisions.
Davis: Chief executives have to have the freedom and opportunity to make decisions on a unemcumbered basis but we have to acknowledge that there are decisions with great community impact where it behoves us to contact the board, but we can’t always do that. You learn those things by experience. There are some lessons learned.
Kinnane reviews the motion for clarification.
Davis: You’re being a bit polite, but if you decide I need to go I go and I’ve got 90 days to go and it only takes a 5-4 vote to do that. If you decide to hire a new superintendent you also can say its time to go.
Kinnane: I was just trying to make sure we were all clear.
Muhammad: You mentioned 2 years but this is like 2 1/2 years.
McDaniel: He has a contract that goes thru June 2013 and we are talking about a contract that goes two years past that.
Muhammad: Why are we doing it this way?
McDaniel: Logic behind this time frame is around the search. We’ve talked about the BOE transition in January 2014. This allows us to begin the search in earnest and if we identify a super, we can bring in that person. It also allows us to say to the system that as we do the search if we do not come up with candidates that are acceptable, they (new board) will have an understanding of who the superintendent is/will be at the time. Short of finding that person, Mr. Davis will be here thru that period of time. This gives us both flexibility and responsibility.
Muhammad: You talked about the typical season for searches and I want to be clear that we are not blocking any particular kind of candidate. The typical season for searches, traditional supers prior to Mr. Davis, I hope that door has been cracked and we can consider other folks.
McDaniel: It may be that the candidate we identify is not a typical superintendent not on a typical superintendent cycle. I don’t think we’re locking ourselves in in any way.
Meister: I have a question. You talk about one year and two years. Right now he has a 90 day with a payout but this does not have a payout.
Motion to call the question. Vote fails 6-3 with Meister, Muhammad and YJohnson voting no.
Muhammad puts motion on the floor for a one year extension with 90 day triggers.
Muhammad explains her motion, saying that it is one year with two 90 day triggers, turning it into 21 months.
McDaniel: Ms. Muhammad that is not the motion you made.
Muhammad explains again.
McDaniel: You’re looking for a 1 year contract with an option to extend the contract by 90 days. 12 month motion with 3 month extension.
Kinnane: Would you be willing to amend your motion for a different extension time frame, one year, for the extension.
YJohnson: Ms. Kinnane that sounds very familiar to what we just rejected.
Kinnane: I think the point of the 1 year was to put the burden on the near future instead of the distant future. We don’t want to leave this system, however, uncovered.
YJohnson: I really believe we have a responsibility to pick a perm super. I believe that a year, in this case another 18 months, is enough time. Perhaps there is a way to include the trigger without going to 2 years. This board has had several conversations over an extended period of time on this issue. When you compromise you have to compromise. Is there some language in terms of the triggers that can be applied to this one year? One of my concerns is that we’ve extended this and I’m not sure we’re in any different position from one week ago. But it needs to be something that is not a re-hashing of the language around the two years.
Kinnane: If there is some allowance for some possibility that can possibly be a compromise that can extend beyond a year to make sure system is stable, that I understand the concern…that whatever that timeframe… (Kinanne recaps the motions and discussion to date).
YJohnson: I’m in support of the year. The new board will have a full 6 months to figure it out. I believe that ultimately, they will have the opportunity to make the decision.
Amos: If we do move forward, we’re asking the new board to choose a super in 6 months when its taken us this long to get where we are. That’s real troubling for me.
McDaniel: I could support a one year extension if you include the 90 day triggers.
Kinnae’s motion to amend the amendment with one year extension has now received a 2nd.
English: I think its a fair compromise.
Butler Burks: I think I need to just understand the amendment.
Kinnane: My amendment had the up to one year extension instead of Ms. Muhammad’s 3 month extension.
McDaniel: I want to clarify that your original motion you had (2 90 day triggers) and Ms. Kinnane is amending the 90 days to one year.
Vote taking place.
Amendment passes 6-3.
Board now taking a break.
8:11pm Board now back in session.
Vote is on the floor.
English asks what impact this will have on the kids in the system.
Steve Smith, Associate Superintendent: We have been stagnant on hiring head of HR and other leadership positions because of the uncertainty with the super’s tenure and the question of his contract extension. It has had that level of impact on the district.
*note – Mr. Davis has left to catch a flight and Mr. Smith is answering on his behalf*
Muhammad: We know that he is going to be leaving, do we keep waiting it out or do we try to bring some permanency to this position? We need him now and we need him for a while longer. It would make no sense to not have anybody as we move forward but to say that in two years we are going to wrap everything up…there is no way we are going to wrap everything up. We have a 5 year strategic plan. Is he going to be around to see that plan thru?
McDaniel: What I would like to see is allowing Mr. Davis to get the foundation of that strategic plan in place. As I’ve talked about on several occasions, I believe the 2 year option allows us to have the new super catch a baton from Davis.
Meister: Wouldn’t we be using the strategic plan in the hiring process? We would hope the next super would build off of that plan.
Vote taken and fails 5-4 to renew contract. No votes from YJohnson, Muhammad, Meister, Amos.
E.Johnson has motion on floor. 2 year contract with 60 day trigger.
Discussion taking place now on motion and superintendent search.
English: I don’t think we should hold the school district hostage because of our unwillingness to engage in a superintendent search.
Butler Burks: Could we say within this motion why there is a 60 day clause? The clause states the reason that there is 60 days is because we’re working hard to identify a perm super for the district.
E.Johnson: That is the case
Butler Burks amends the motion …Up to 2 years with a 60 day clause for identifying a superintendent or for any reason and indicating that the reason for the 60 day clause is because we are working hard to identify a perm super for the district…actively engaged.
YJohnson: Concern is around the year vs two years. I think 60 days may actually be a little tight. Let’s not focus on the red herring, the issue is on the 2yrs vs the 1.
Meister: At some point we could start the search and then identify whether we would want to extend his contract.
Board votes on the amendment. Motion to amend carries.
Vote on the original motion (amended) fails. YJohnson, Meister & Muhammad vote no.
New motion on floor made by Muhammad.
Muhammad: One year extension of the contract up to 6 month option and 90 day triggers = 18 months (12+6).
YJohnson: Both 90 days are in there?
Muhammad: Yes, max would be 18 months.
McDaniel: Does everyone understand? That we extend the contract by 1 year. 6 month option to extend. Inside of that contract a 90 day trigger upon hiring a new super and 90 day trigger upon a 5-4 vote by BOE.
Muhammad: I see this as a compromise. The time is about allowing the current superintendent the time he needs to do some of the things he needs to do to wrap up and the time we need to find a new superintendent.
Board continues to debate 1 yr vs 2. Compromise vs not compromising. McDaniel explains his rationale behind 2 year contract. Kinnane says this is a reasonable compromise between the one and two year.
McDaniel: The 2 year gives you the same flexibility. This is just compromise for the sake of compromise.
Kinanne: I thought the concern was that the new board can do what they want, by just giving them that 6 months…one year….we are not giving them enough time to do what they need to do. Having this additional 6 months….what we’ve done we’ve not burdened them.
McDaniel argues that having 18 months from the time the new board takes office until end of contract puts them in a better position as it relates to the fiscal cycle.
Motion fails again (4th failed motion). Muhammad asks if McDaniel has a suggestion.
McDaniel gives examples of what might work for him moving forward. ”How do we collectively hold our feet to the fire around the search process.”
Muhammad: I’m very leery around that one because we had a superintendent’s envisioning committee that was just disbanded without any board input. I would be leery about what would happen again.
McDaniel: Is your lack of faith in our ability to drive a search process in that time period?
Muhammad: I believe we have the ability, but will we see it through to fruition.
McDaniel: So what could we put into this to address that concern?
Muhammad: One of my real concerns is that when we started this process we talked about a year and Mr. Davis committed up to 2 years and we didn’t have a search because we had a great need. We promised that we would continue our search and we haven’t really done anything. He’s been either so good or we’ve gotten comfortable that we haven’t done that other work that we needed to do. If he continues he’s just going to get deeper into the plan. I don’t know, it’s a level of discomfort.
Board is taking a break.
9:17pm Board has reconvened.
Amos makes motion to extend contract beginning January 1, 2013 for 2 years with 90 day triggers.
YJohnson: It’s not a 2 year because he’s already committed to 6 more months on this contract.
McDaniel: Basically the motion on the floor is an 18 month extension with 2 90 day triggers.
YJohnson: Isn’t that Ms. Muhammad’s motion?
Muhammad: It just depends on who says it.
Meister: So from a legal perspective what happens with his contract?
Pitts asks for clarification from Amos.
Muhammad and Meister vote no.
Vote passes. Superintendent Davis’ contract has been extended for 18 months beginning July of 2013.
Muhammad discusses difference between 2 year new contract beginning in January vs 18 months beginning in July.
McDaniel: We’ve voted as a board to extend 18 months.
Muhammad asks that her vote is changed to reflect support of Mr. Amos’ motion.
FINAL DECISION: Board of education has voted for a 18 month extension of Superintendent Erroll Davis’ contract beginning July 1, 2013 and ending December 31, 2013.