The Clarke County Board of Education will host a public forum at 6 p.m. Thursday, Apr. 7 in the H.T. Edwards building on discipline and attendance issues raised by teachers and parents in the wake of the district’s mishandling of an alleged sexual assault at Cedar Shoals High School.
At the forum, school board members will take input from students, parents and teachers on ways to improve policy related to student discipline. “That’s what people are up in arms about,” board President Charles Worthy said. “Especially the two principals. I’m still getting calls about them.”
The Athens Banner-Herald reported last week that the principals at Cleveland Road Elementary and Hilsman Middle schools were injured breaking up fights in separate incidents.
A number of teachers have told Flagpole and other news outlets that higher-ups have discouraged them from disciplining unruly students, they cannot address rampant absenteeism, and they are afraid to take those issues to the administration or otherwise speak out for fear of losing their jobs.
One teacher, Marta Dean, says the district moved to fire her after she complained about students cursing at and hitting her. She has filed legal briefs asking a judge to force the board to hire an independent investigator and give her a termination hearing.
Some board members raised concerns at a called meeting this afternoon that the input gathered at the forum won’t be put to use, or that the board could be perceived as micromanaging.
Such a forum is “long overdue” but “I’m concerned about our will as a board and an administration,” Ovita Thornton said. “This is a great avenue if we’re going to use it the way it could be used.”
Another board member, Sarah Ellis, who helped plan the forum, assured colleagues that the intent is listen and take action by the start of the next school year. “We have to have a what-next,” she said.
The forum will be facilitated by Joe Whorton, a retired longtime faculty member at UGA’s Fanning Institute. Whorton will meet with board members twice in the coming weeks to discuss the forum’s format, according to Worthy.
The location is tentatively set for the Heritage Room at H.T. Edwards, which holds 300 people, but it could be moved if district officials come to expect a larger crowd, Worthy said.
After discussing the forum, the board went into closed session to discuss a personnel issue.