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School Board Won’t Pursue Ethics Complaint Against Means

Superintendent Demond Means.

Clarke County Board of Education members decided last week that they don’t want to pursue an ethics complaint filed against Superintendent Demond Means with the state Professional Standards Commission in May.

The complaint—filed by a Newnan lawyer on behalf of an anonymous group of clients—alleged that Means plagiarized a passage from a self-help book in a memo to staff, inappropriately accepted payment for teaching an AVID training course while also pushing the BOE to hire the company, and questioned whether he completed his dissertation.

The PSC wrote to the school board in June asking it to investigate the allegations. The school district’s attorney, Michael Pruett, told the board that PSC likely perceived the complaint as merely “local political turmoil.”

Most of the discussion at the Nov. 7 work session centered around the plagiarism allegation. Several board members—including retired teacher Greg Davis and two college professors, Patricia Yager and Kara Dyckman—criticized Means for lifting the passage without attribution, but said it didn’t rise to the level of an ethics complaint. Means said he didn’t know who to cite, because no author was given where he saw the passage. Patrick McKee, the Newnan lawyer, traced it back to a book by Luis E. Romero.

On the AVID issue, Means said he did his “due diligence” by informing Charles Worthy, then the board president, of his work for AVID before he was officially hired as superintendent. But Worthy, who was not at the work session, apparently did not tell the rest of the board, because members seemed surprised when Means revealed in April that he had been teaching courses for AVID. The board had approved an approximately $500,000 contract with AVID to train CCSD teachers the previous June. Board Vice President Linda Davis and former president Jared Bybee later said there was not a conflict of interest.

Means also told the board that he posted his dissertation to the online database ProQuest. McKee had questioned whether he finished it because no copies were known to exist. The education department at Means’ alma mater, Cardinal Stritch University in Milwaukee, did not require PhD candidates to submit their dissertations to the school library, as many universities do, in 2005, but previously confirmed to Flagpole that he completed the program.

Means and board President LaKeisha Gantt lamented the anonymous nature of the complaint, with Means calling it a “witch hunt” and suggesting it was racially motivated.

The board also discussed another anonymous complaint, this one filed with the accreditation agency Cognia, formerly known as SACS and AdvancED, accusing the board of micromanagement. In his response to Cognia asking it to investigate, Means singled out board member John Knox, who clashed with Means over former Cedar Shoals principal Derrick Maxwell. Means and Knox revealed Thursday that they are attending restorative justice circles with the Athens-based Georgia Conflict Center.