Talladega City Board of Education 2015-19

The Talladega City Board of Education includes (from left) Mary McGhee, Jake Montgomery, Shirley Simmons-Sims, Chuck Roberts and James Braswell.

TALLADEGA -- The Talladega City Board of Education voted 4-1 Tuesday to approve the minutes of its previous meeting, the financial statements for December and a state-mandated bullying and sexual harassment policy, with board member Mary McGhee casting the dissenting vote in all cases.

McGhee also objected to the submitted personnel actions but ultimately voted in favor of them.

After the meeting, McGhee explained she voted against the minutes “because of the same things as before, the half-time at Zora Ellis situation. I didn’t like that. They keep telling me to get with the superintendent, and I have done that. He knows what I’m talking about.”

McGhee is apparently referring to Darian Simmons, who was recently appointed director of the career technical program. Simmons had previously been an assistant principal at Zora Ellis Junior High, but also worked as an assistant principal at Talladega High. McGhee objected to Simmons working half a day at the high school, adding his duties there should have been handled by another employee.

The bullying and sexual harassment policy modification was based on a state model, according to Superintendent Tony Ball. Tuesday was the second reading of the policy, and the last before approval; the policy had first been presented to the board members a month ago, Ball said.

“Since parents are not allowed to address the board, they had a town hall meeting, and these are the questions they had,” McGhee said, reading a prepared statement. “Are all personnel trained in these new policies? Who administers the training, is it state or federal? The principals will be investigating these complaints. What training have they been given to be fair, in something that affects parents and children?

“When it is reported to the principal and the investigation is done, who gets to see the report, and how will it be resolved. Will the parents of the accused get to see the report? How will the new policy be governed for staff, faculty and students?”

Ball took a copy of the written questions and said he would provide McGhee with answers. Meanwhile, board member Jake Montgomery said he planned to vote in favor of the policy but said it addressed too many major issues and should probably be broken up.

Ball said that could certainly be done later, but because it was a state requirement, he hoped to get it on the books as soon as possible.

McGhee did vote in favor of the personnel actions, but only after a testy exchange with board Chairman Chuck Roberts and Montgomery.

Initially, McGhee asked if a supplement included on the slate of actions would actually expire at the end of the school year, which the superintendent’s written recommendation said it would.

“People are continuing to receive supplements that have expired, even after the end date,” McGhee said. “They are continuing to receive temporary supplements that they’re not supposed to be getting any more.”

Ball said the supplement in question, which is for the virtual school supervisor, who now has nearly twice as many students as at the beginning of the school year, would, in fact, expire May 24.

“You should keep in mind, the school year is 187 days long, but teachers get paid over 12 months,” he said.

Montgomery challenged McGhee to submit a list of names of the employees who were getting paid said supplements that they were no longer earning.

McGhee replied “I won’t do it. You know exactly who I’m talking about.”

Said Ball, “I don’t know who you’re talking about.”

Added Roberts, “We’re not going to have a discussion with absolutely no facts.”

When pressed further on specifics, McGhee said, “I have already talked with Mr. Ball, and that it the end of the conversation.”

She voted in favor of the recommendations with the condition that “the supplements expire when they say they will.”

Chief Schools Financial Officer Lesley Bollendorf reported that as of the end of December, the board had received 24.74 percent of its projected revenue and was at 24.32 percent of expected spending. There was a $5.1 million balance on the system’s books, and payroll for the month came to $1.3 million.

McGhee did not say why she was voting against approval of the statement during the meeting. Afterward, however, she said “because we are paying good money that could be used for other things.

“We’re paying salaries that should not be paid, especially for temps in the child nutrition program. That was $5,000 that should have ceased when they hired someone permanently. That money could have been used for something else.”

She refused to make any public comment beyond that, saying that she found The Daily Home’s practice of allowing other board members or the superintendent to respond to her comments unfair.

“They just twist around whatever I say,” she said.

As in past meetings, several of McGhee’s constituents were in the audience holding signs, including one man seated near the front of the room with a sign reading “A felon in the classroom? Certified? Classified?”

The man refused to identify the individual his sign referred to, saying only “ask the board members. They know who I’m talking about, they all know it.”

In fact, none of the board members, including McGhee, said they knew what the sign referred to. Ball said all teachers and other employees hired by the system are subject to a background check conducted by the Alabama Bureau of Investigation, and those who do not pass the background check are not hired.

Further coverage of Tuesday’s meeting will appear in Thursday’s Daily Home.