Photo Credit: Austin Steele/file
The Clarke County Board of Education voted 5-3 Monday to place Superintendent Demond Means on leave and name his chief of staff, Xernona Thomas, the chief executive until an interim superintendent is found.
The vote ended Means' tumultuous two-and-a-half year tenure, although a number of details still remain to be worked out, including any severance package. Means' contract runs through the 2021-2022 school year, so he is owed more than $500,000 if he's fired without cause.
Greg Davis, Kara Dyckman, Patricia Yager, Tawana Mattox and John Knox voted in favor of the motion, made by Yager, while Charles Worthy, Linda Davis and LaKeisha Gantt voted against it. District 2 representative Frances Berry resigned last month, leaving that seat vacant.
"I would like to say publicly that I am disheartened," said Gantt, the board president. "Having done equity work, I know Clarke County is a special place, but we have some real issues we have to tackle as a city and as a school district."
Yager said she was sad to make the motion, which drew jeers from a mostly pro-Means audience that had waited for over three hours while the board met behind closed doors. Yager said she is grateful to Means for starting CCSD down the path of racial equity and is interested in the next superintendent continuing in that direction.
Means was present when the meeting began at 3:30 p.m., but was gone when the board returned to open session around 7 p.m. Gantt said she was not sure whether the rules regarding executive sessions for personnel matters allowed her to say whether Means met with the board during that time.
Means told the board at a Nov. 21 board meeting that "you don't want me as superintendent, and we need to have a discussion about how I leave." The board then held a closed meeting last Thursday to, as Gantt put it, "enter into negotiations for [Means'] exit."
Means later walked back his Nov. 21 statement, telling a crowd at a community meeting Saturday that "if there's anything I can do to mend fences, I will do it." But clearly his already rocky relationship with a majority of board members had been damaged beyond repair.
As for appointing a replacement for Berry, Gantt said she is hopeful that topic will be discussed at the board's next meeting on Thursday.