School board members got an earful at Thursday’s meeting.
In front of a full house at Lanier Primary School, LPS Principal Patti Newman asked the board to reconsider the decision to terminate Superintendent Dr. Sallie Brewer.
"I’m very distressed at the action that was taken last week at the board meeting," she said, "for many reasons."Newman, part of Bryan County Schools for 34 years, with Bryan County Middle School Principal Deborah Hamm at her side, said they and a number of other principals were concerned about the economic impact the decision would have on the schools and children.
"We already know we are facing a financial crisis in the United States," Newman said, "but I am afraid that the disregard of $250,000 that it would take to buy out Dr. Brewer’s contract is a fiscally irresponsible action."
"I think there is a much better way to handle the situation than has been done," she said.
Newman said the amount added up to about 16 paraprofessional positions, and was afraid that the buy out would result in numerous staff positions cuts.
"I’m afraid that is going to be facing us and think the situation is going to be exacerbated by the situation that was created last week. I really think the impact is going to be a lot worse than you realized," she said.
Newman also said the event has demoralized the faculty and staff at many of the schools, and she’s not heard anyone that was pleased with the way it was handled."
"I don’t expect to see anything changed, but I hope you will look at the action taken and reconsider what was done."
Also speaking regarding the recent action was "involved parent of 10 years," Haley Beeson.
Beeson said as a CPA and parent, she felt comfortable with her assessment of the facts and figures of the school system and requested the board post a running tally of the true cost of replacing the superintendent on the board’s website.
"I have a difficult time believing what I was told last week, that this is not going to cost our school system any more money," she said.
Beeson said the superintendent’s salary, whatever it really was, was just the beginning cost and there were other costs to be considered, such as the increase of Interim Superintendent John Oliver’s salary, the recruiting of a new superintendent and the incentives (like a car) it may take to bring them here.
"These expenses are going to come about over time, and I think it is our right as the public and your constituents to know what the true cost is of this decision that you made last week," Beeson said.
"Ultimately the money spent on this is taking services away from the children," she said. "It’s imperative to look at every expense with scrutiny."
Bryan County resident Tim Stillwell said he believed the people of the county spoke during the elections, and that the ideology of the community and the board was changing, and that what was happening was the price to pay for conflict in ideologies between the board and administration.
"Sometimes there needs to be changes in administrative levels, and I think that has occurred. The people of this county spoke last year at elections," he said.
Stillwell, however, challenged the board to not be hasty in replacing the superintendent, but to look deeply at the candidates and consider public comment in a less formal setting where people can speak before making their final decision.
"I think if people realize they have a say, it will become a viable option," he said.
In closing comments, board member Charlie Johnson thanked the three public speakers.
"I think it’s a very important thing to be able to get up and have a say," he said.
"I appreciate people who are willing to get up and be heard," Johnson said.
Board member Joe Pecenka said he appreciated the opinions expressed and felt people should be able to speak at all meetings. He thanked Oliver for stepping into a job that he knows hasn’t been an easy one.
Regarding the issues brought forth by the speakers, Pecenka said, "I feel it’s my duty to help this board move forward. That’s my commitment, whether I agree with what’s happened or not. I want to see us make well thought out decisions in a way positive for the community and the school system."
In other business:
The budget timeline for the proposed 2010 budget was discussed briefly. The timeline includes a called BoE meeting prior to the March 26 regular meeting to discuss staffing needs, April 1 deadline for school allotments issues to principals, April 17 school and department budgets due, a called meeting in May to present the budget to the public (date undetermined), and anticipation of the finalized budget around June 25, 2009, contingent on legislature approving the state budget.
The board voted to approve a resolution phasing out Bryan County Elementary School, stating that the cost to bring it up to current Life Safety Code and Georgia Department of Education standards exceeds the amount of State funds available for a comparable new facility.
Brad Anderson, assistant superintendent for administrative services for the BoE said that doesn’t mean BCES will be replaced any time soon, it’s just the first step in letting the state know we are ready for a new school when the funds become available.
The board voted to accept a donation of netting for a batting tunnel, head protecting screens, rubber beads and turf for the batting cage, a field liner, L-screens, and eight dozen baseballs (valued at $3,500) for the Richmond Hill High School baseball team from the RHHS Home Run Club.
The board voted to accept a donation of field tarps (valued at $400) for the RHHS baseball field from the RHHS Home Run Club.