The Clarke County Board of Education met in executive session last week to evaluate Superintendent Demond Means.
The board took no action publicly, but the closed-door meeting was noteworthy for two reasons: The board renewed Means’ contract in January and just evaluated him during another closed meeting less than two months ago, and recently Means has been the topic of a racially charged debate over his leadership.
After a group of mostly white Chase Street Elementary School parents sent board members a letter raising concerns about the exodus of teachers and principals under Means (including Chase’s Adam Kurtz and Andrea Neher), activist Fred Smith Sr. urged black residents to support Means and his focus on equity.
About 50 mostly African-American citizens attended the June 27 called meeting, but the board did not take public comment before going into executive session. (Government bodies are allowed to discuss personnel matters in private, and public input is only required in meetings where votes are taken.)
Four new board members out of nine have taken office since Means was hired two years ago, with a fifth coming on board in August, when a replacement for Jared Bybee is chosen.
Before the meeting, rumors circulated that the board would address an ethics complaint filed against Means by a Newnan lawyer working for unknown clients in Athens questioning whether Means completed his dissertation and alleging that he plagiarized a passage in a letter to staff and improperly took money from AVID, a district contractor. Smith and others have called the complaint a racially motivated witch hunt, although both black and white CCSD observers have criticized hiring AVID to train teachers at the expense of over half a million dollars. The state Professional Standards Commission, which certifies educators, recently referred the complaint to the local school board.
Before the meeting, board President LaKeisha Gantt alluded to a potential agenda item that had been pushed back to another meeting to give the public more notice. The school board’s next meeting is scheduled for July 18.