Former Clarke County School District superintendent Demond Means was communicating with accreditation agency Cognia using his CCSD email account over a week after the school board placed him on administrative leave and named Xernona Thomas the acting chief executive.
Means was placed on leave Dec. 9. On Dec. 17, he emailed Cognia’s Claudia Carter from his CCSD account asking about the schedule and accommodations for Cognia’s investigation into accusations—supported by Means—of micromanagement by school board members. He also asked about the process for choosing stakeholders to interview.
“The community has been and continues to be split on this issue, as you can imagine,” he wrote. “The district wants to ensure that voices that have raised concerns associated with the Special Review Team are appropriately heard.”
That email, and others regarding the Cognia investigation, were obtained through an open records request.
Parent Katrina Evans sent an email to board members on Dec. 28 saying she was “deeply troubled that [Means] is misrepresenting himself as superintendent.”
Board member Charles Worthy responded by saying he had informed Carter that five board members had voted to place Means on leave, and Carter told him that she would “continue to send all communication” to Means.
“Do understand Dr. Means is going to be a direct part of the AdvancED/Cognia investigation,” Worthy wrote, using Cognia’s former name before it merged with another company.
Worthy also revealed that he had filed an “addendum to the original AdvancED/Cognia complaints” on Dec. 11. That addendum, also obtained by Flagpole through an open records request, involved board members taking notes and using computers during executive sessions to discuss Means’ employment.
“Dr. Thomas deserves our full and absolute support,” board member Patricia Yager replied. She called for Means’ email account to be deactivated and all emails forwarded to Thomas, and for her photo and contact information to replace Means’ on the CCSD website. Thomas is now listed as interim superintendent.
Mattox responded in a more scathing fashion, accusing Worthy of intimidation tactics and fomenting a racial divide.
“You have attempted to block accountability measures by yelling and screaming, you talk about board members appeasing special interest groups when you are the main one who appears to be part of a group in this community to create discourse based on false race narratives,” she wrote. “You often speak of this complaint, which makes me wonder if you along with unnamed persons wrote it, and it has been very unfair. As a community, a small loud group including people close to you have lied to the community, turned things into a race war when black and white people are for building equity. As a native Athenian who has spent my life advocating and working with many of the people and pastors who are following a false narrative presented from the inside, I am saddened and disappointed.”
Cognia is scheduled to send a special review team to Athens Jan. 26–28.
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