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Group objects to Talladega City BOE’s firing of teacher

New Talladega City BOE sworn in

Four incumbent members of the Talladega City Board of Education were sworn in for new terms Monday, and they were joined by newcomer Sandra Beavers. Shown, from left, are incumbents Chuck Roberts, Jake Montgomery, James Braswell and Mary McGhee, and Beavers, who took the oath of office for her first term. They were sworn in by Circuit Judge Chad Woodruff. 

TALLADEGA -- The Talladega City Board of Education voted 3-2 Tuesday evening to approve a slate of personnel actions submitted by Superintendent Tony Ball, including the termination of a fifth-grade teacher at Graham Elementary School. 

Board Chair Mary McGhee and board member Sandra Beavers cast the dissenting votes.

By virtue of a standing agreement between The Daily Home and the board, the teacher’s name will not be published until she has been officially notified of the board’s action, although in this case she would have been aware of it.

Before calling for the vote, McGhee recognized a group of parents speaking on the teacher’s behalf. A representative of this delegation read a prepared statement, which she said she had not written herself, into the record. 

The parents making up the delegation expressed concern that “the principal, the superintendent and the board continuously allow our children to go without adequate instruction from a certified teacher yet once again. 

“For the past two years, our children have not been afforded a quality education. The children nor ourselves are to blame. The blame sits before us, the administration, superintendent and board.

“A number of us were going to take our children out of this school because we knew what our children had to endure the last two years and we did not want a repeat of this. Bullying, fighting (and) inadequate instruction are a few of the issues that came from not having the right certified teacher in this classroom. 

“We know our children have been labelled. (The) majority of this class is not reading on grade level and yet, once again, where does the blame lie?”

The statement continued, “Some of us expressed our concerns to the administrator, and she assured us that our children will have someone who not only comes highly recommended but her strength is teaching reading. Just what our kids need. 

“Some of us still weren’t convinced because of the administrator’s past actions. Some of them reached out to the teacher, who asked us to give her a chance to help our children, and we did just that.

“She informed us she was a no-nonsense teacher and that is what it takes to get our children where they need to be.” 

She also said she had an open door policy and was willing to hold tutoring sessions in West Gate, the statement said.

The writer of the statement said the classroom horror stories “ceased when they were placed in the hands of a certified teacher. It was not until the teacher’s numerous absences that the stories began to surface again (of) fights breaking out and our children receiving assignments that are not on grade level.”

The school administrator could not schedule an immediate appointment with the parents, according to the statement, and Superintendent Tony Ball declined to speak to them following a board meeting “because he felt two of the board members put her up to approach him, which was not the case.” He did meet with a concerned parent the following day for about an hour; the conversation was recorded, and copies were provided to the board members and to The Daily Home. 

Then addressing Ball directly, the writer of the statement said, “We as parents and concerned citizens are appalled at the lack of professionalism you displayed … We the parents know what kind of impact this teacher has had on our children, and yet, you want to recommend her termination. As we listened to the recording, we came to the conclusion that this is personal issue and not professional one.”

At this point, Ball protested that board policy does not allow personal attacks against individuals. McGhee said merely that the delegation was on the agenda, and she intended to let the representative speak. Board attorney Charlie Gaines said the speaker was violating board policy.

Ball also pointed out that the speaker was not the parent he had spoken to, at which point she also said she was not the author of the statement she was reading.

At this point, the board unanimously agreed to go into executive session to discuss the good name and character of an individual. They stayed gone for about 10 minutes before resuming the regular session and taking up their regular business.

On the recording, Ball touches on a wide-ranging variety of topics, including ongoing issues with personnel between himself and McGhee and Beavers, the need to hire more black teachers and how difficult it is to recommend the termination of a teacher. While it is clear on the recording he has already made up his mind to recommend termination, he does not come off as defensive or overly aggressive. 

Because of the personnel issues, Ball said after the meeting he could not comment on the reasons for recommending the termination or any other aspect of his and the majority of the board’s decision making.

McGhee said she had not listened to the recording but would play it and get back with the members of the delegation when she had.

At the end of the meeting, Beavers announced there would be a community meeting Jan. 30 at the B.N. Mabra Center geared toward residents of Wards 1 and 2 but open to anyone.

Further coverage of Tuesday’s meeting will appear in future editions of The Daily Home.