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Principal ejected from Richmond County school board committee meeting after outburst

Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2012 10:02 PM
Last updated Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012 2:05 AM
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An elementary school principal was escorted out of the Richmond County Board of Education committee meeting Tuesday by two school safety officers after yelling that board members ignored his concerns about mold and asbestos in his building.

Hartley Gibbons, the principal at Terrace Manor Elementary School, was escorted out of the Richmond County Board of Education meeting Tuesday after yelling at board members for ignoring his concerns.  TRACEY MCMANUS/STAFF
TRACEY MCMANUS/STAFF
Hartley Gibbons, the principal at Terrace Manor Elementary School, was escorted out of the Richmond County Board of Education meeting Tuesday after yelling at board members for ignoring his concerns.

Hartley Gibbons, the principal at Terrace Manor Elementary School, interrupted a discussion about the priority list of construction projects being funded by the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax.

When his school showed up as number 46 of 63 schools on the list, Gibbons jumped from his seat and lunged at the microphone.

Board President Alex Howard banged his gavel and board member Jimmy Atkins told Gibbons he was out of order, but the principal continued.

“I want to let it be known that Terrace Manor is a 49-year-old building!” Gibbons yelled as School Safety and Security Chief Patrick Clayton guided him out of the building. “We got mold, asbestos, and we’re number 40-something on the list. We got zero dollars!”

Gibbons’ outburst Tues­day was the culmination of about six months of complaints to board members and Superintendent Frank Roberson about alleged mold and contaminants in his building that he said were making teachers and staff sick. Although he said school officials were not responsive to his concerns, at least two agencies have ruled this year that his building is safe and mold-free. Gibbons told the board that he tried to get on the meeting agenda but was denied.

Alternative Construction and Environmental Solu­tions, an environmental consulting and construction management firm, conducted an environmental investigation Sept. 17 and 19 to test for asbestos-containing materials, moisture intrusion, mold spore counts and a limited indoor air quality analysis.

The testing found “no visible evidence of mold growth,” although no invasive inspecting was performed, according to the report.

The company also found that all asbestos-containing materials and painted surfaces were in good condition. It determined that the only water damage found was left over from a period before the roof was replaced. The company found one HVAC unit that was not functioning properly and another that had a condensation drip, but Benton Starks, the senior director of facilities for the school system, said all those issues have been repaired.

The East Central Health District also inspected the school Nov. 6 and found “no signs of any current mold issues within the school building,” according to a letter sent to Gibbons.

Starks said he also consulted with the Environmental Protection Agency regional office and was assured that the school system was taking the proper steps to address the issue.

“It’s not a cause and effect,” Starks said. “You have sick people in your building, but that doesn’t mean the building is making them sick. There is no basis for any of this. None. There is no scientific evidence. No roof leaks.”

Although Gibbons threatened to “go straight to the press” during his outburst, he refused to speak to reporters after the meeting. After the committee meetings ended and the regular board meeting started directly after, Gibbons began picketing alone outside the Board of Education building.

Without speaking, he paced back and forth in a straight line wearing sheets of paper on his chest and back that said “TMES School Unsafe.” Gibbons would not answer questions about what his concerns were or what his plan of action would be.

Gibbons’ school was not allocated any money in the most current Phase IV SPLOST. The 59-year-old Terrace Manor was allocated $661,000 during Phase I of SPLOST for a new physical education building and roof replacement. In Phase II, it received $3.3 million for a building renovation and HVAC upgrades, which were completed in 2005.

No money was allocated to Terrace Manor in the third or fourth SPLOSTs, but Starks said more than $100,000 has been spent on the school in the past six months.

That includes $14,832 in skylight repairs, $40,000 in painting, $6,885 for the air monitoring, $2,000 for the environmental investigation and $18,500 for HVAC units, among other expenditures.

Although Gibbons said roof leaks, mold and contaminants are making his staff ill and money for repairs is necessary, Roberson said he was comfortable with school officials’ conclusions so far.

“That took a very unorthodox presentation, which was not appreciated,” Roberson said of Gibbons’ outburst. “We regret that he’s not looking at it from a rational perspective. There are ways you address those issues.”

IN OTHER NEWS

• The Richmond County Board of Education approved three administration positions. Doug Frierson was named principal of Garrett Elementary School. Melissa Shepard was named principal and Barbara Brown was named assistant principal at Spirit Creek Middle School.

• The board agreed to meet Nov. 27 to review the past evaluation for Superintendent Frank Roberson and establish a new format for his next evaluation. The board agreed in September to meet and complete an evaluation but never did. Board member Helen Minchew brought the issue up at Tuesday’s meeting after seeing no progress. “We need to quit dragging our feet,” board member Jimmy Atkins said.

– From staff reports

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sassylassie
502
Points
sassylassie 11/14/12 - 01:00 am
11
1
Poor choice for new principal

Poor choice for new principal at Spiritcreek middle. Of course, anyone is probably better than the current administrators. The current one does nothing and neither will the new one. At least Mr.Gibbons is actively doing something about the state of his school! The RCBOE is going nowhere.

willie7
984
Points
willie7 11/13/12 - 11:42 pm
7
0
Mr. Gibbons is
Unpublished

Mr. Gibbons is right---something is in that building, mold or absesto.
Staff has been complaining for years and many take sick leaves due to the condition of the building. I don't agree with him for doing what he did . I am sure there is another way to make this complaint.He should put it in writing and address it to the Richmond County Board of Education.
I know his teachers will be proud of him.

proud2bamerican
441
Points
proud2bamerican 11/14/12 - 12:19 am
8
0
what's a man to do?

It seems that he has already tried to go through the proper channels and now being denied help with his school again, is quite frustrated. The report doesn't say that he became violent or began using profanity, he was reasonably agitated. Like another commented, at least he is trying hard to do something positive for his students and staff; he is known for genuinely caring about people and his job. If you go into the school you will soon find what he is concerned about...

happyfeet2012
11
Points
happyfeet2012 11/14/12 - 12:23 am
1
0
So who was assigned the task of being Spirit Creek's principal

So who was assigned the task of being the principal and assistant principal at Spirit Creek Middle School? Anyone go to the board meeting tonight?

sassylassie
502
Points
sassylassie 11/14/12 - 12:43 am
2
2
Happy feet that was Melissa

Happy feet that was Melissa Shepherd from Sue Reynold Elementary will be principal. Barbara Brown will be assistant principal.

happyfeet2012
11
Points
happyfeet2012 11/14/12 - 01:05 am
3
3
Wow

Wow. Spirit Creek is in for a ride. Who is making the decisions for Principal. Not to sound sexiest but where are the qualified men in education. These poor kids have few father figures running their homes or in the home then they come to school and few in leadership at school. Surely, they have qualified men to interview for these positions. We need some restructuring downtown.

Insider Information
4009
Points
Insider Information 11/14/12 - 01:22 am
7
3
So.... The guy in charge of

So.... The guy in charge of maintenance inspects the school and finds nothing. A private company inspects it and finds nothing. The Department of Health inspects it and finds nothing.

But, Mr. Gibbons knows better than all of the experts.

Considering his history, he has little to no credibility.

goldie53
46
Points
goldie53 11/14/12 - 03:24 am
6
0
No disrespect to...you think

No disrepect to Dr. Roberson you think he would pay attention to what Mr. Gibbons is saying. Sickness is sickness no matter what...yes that school is toxic. CDC states mold and abestos is dangerous.

I had many relatives to work there and some have passed on because of cancer. There are many employees who has been diagnosed with cancer working or has worked at this TMES.

The no-talking heads who sits on the Board are just yes men & women to the bigger Board. We need new and younger people on RCBOE. These schools are in terrible shape in Richmond County. They know it too. Get up off your butt and check out these schools. Yes anyone can pay someone to pass an inspection. You know that also.

Maybe Mr. Gibbons didn't go about it the correct way. Yet it seems he had went through the proper channels without any help. Sometimes the "squeakly wheel gets the grease."

Ruckus
467
Points
Ruckus 11/14/12 - 03:52 am
7
0
We need more like him in our school system

Without speaking, he paced back and forth in a straight line wearing sheets of paper on his chest and back that said “TMES School Unsafe.” Gibbons would not answer questions about what his concerns were or what his plan of action would be. Mr. Gibbons reminds me of Joe Clark a princple that cares and is not there to only receive a check. I hope the Augusta Chronicle, WJBF, WRDW, WBBQ, and any one else that can be considered to do a follow up on this.

Tullie
2930
Points
Tullie 11/14/12 - 05:44 am
9
0
Mold

The testing found “no visible evidence of mold growth,” although no invasive inspecting was performed, according to the report.

Stachybotrys chartarum, also known as black mold, is a fungus that thrives in damp, humid buildings. Black mold moves quickly into duct work, wood, and wallpaper.

What is the point of doing an inspection if you are not going to go where you can find it? Everyone knows now about sick buildings and it is sounding like they don't want to find anything here. It is very costly to get rid of black mold once it invades a building. If this is the case, the longer they let this go on the worse this will get.

Sometimes people act a little crazy because people will not listen to a legitimate cry for help..not because they are crazy.

I don't know the whole story about what is going on here, but I know about allergies and mold and I feel sorry for these people if they are going through this.

Just My Opinion
5859
Points
Just My Opinion 11/14/12 - 05:51 am
7
0
Ruckus, I don't know about

Ruckus, I don't know about that...about one of the local media outlets actually picking up a pad and pencil (or a camera), and actually getting out from behind their computer and driving over to the school to get the REAL story. Interview the principal, the teachers, and the staff....anonymously, if needed. One thing the press should do is to NOT take just the word of the BOE. As far as this principal, his desire to get something done pushed him over the edge as far as decorum. GOOD FOR HIM!! After exploring all the avenues, he finally got what he wanted and that was that this has become a front-page issue! I encourage the parents and the teachers to step up and help him get it uncovered and have something done. Otherwise, it'll be buried for another few years....and you might just lose your principal. The BOE is definitely planning on reprimanding him...they don't like being made to look bad. So, if you want Mr. Gibbons, you better help protect his job.

TrulyWorried
15362
Points
TrulyWorried 11/14/12 - 06:35 am
7
0
Asbestos and lead paint

Lead paint may be covering up the asbestos? AND - who cares about all the children that are in that school? Not a word was mentioned about them! They spend almost as much time in that building as the adults working there.

OpenCurtain
10049
Points
OpenCurtain 11/14/12 - 06:41 am
5
0
Tullie & Just My Opinion make valid points

I, myself have not been to the school, in all honesty I would be hard pressed to tell anyone where it is exactly even located in Terrace Manor.

But I do understand frustration, and running into perceived or actual dead-ends avenues of approach with dealing with any Bureaucrats.

At this point even if the principle is right the BOE will have to circle its wagons for protection. The 1st likely step was likely already put into motion when the principle with his outburst displayed his lack of emotional control, and the use of administrative savvy in dealing with the situation.

I would suggest the principle officially apologize quickly, openly and publicly. If he wishes to keep his job and his voice as a advocate of his staff and students.

However, his actions after the outburst of pacing back and forth in a straight line wearing sheets of paper on his chest and back that said “TMES School Unsafe. Seem extremely childish or those of a person going over the deep end.

Before a person points out the School has had over $3.9million repairs. Mold has very little to do with how new something is, but more to how well the facelift was done.

Less anyone forget, the years of complaints regarding the "NEW" Jail downtown, before someone was able to get around the Bureaucratic stonewall to prove the concerns.

scgator
1042
Points
scgator 11/14/12 - 06:50 am
6
0
Proper Channel's ???

We are ALWAYS told to follow procedure; but, when nothing is resolved, we are ALWAYS made to appear foolish or out of control for being upset because nothing is being done.

I am a licensed electrical contractor, with 30+ years experience; when I went to get my "Home Inspection" license, I was told that I could only visually look at the electrical; I could not remove ANY covers, or perform ANY electrical testing, including "ground fault" tests. I was told that if I were doing a HOME INSPECTION, only that license and its parameters were relevant. This is similar to the restrictions for asbestos testing; if your license ONLY allows for visual inspection, then that is ALL you can do. On a side note; companies with "restricted" licenses do not cost RCBOE nearly as much money for an inspection as one with "Complete" credentials. The school principal has EVERY right to be upset, and this community should "ring the phones off the hook" @ RCBOE in support of him.................

OpenCurtain
10049
Points
OpenCurtain 11/14/12 - 07:43 am
6
0
scgator - also makes a valid point

Visual Inspections. Consider if the Taxpayers paid $2,000 for a company to do a visual walk around, this in itself has some serious implications.

The Principle, teachers, or parents would better off spending $75 and purchasing one of the many available Air Sampling Mold test kits. Then mail the tested samples to a certified Independent Testing company and have private results ready within a week. Total cost maybe $150... NOT $2,000.

If the tests come back positive, then privately, but officially present a "copy" of the findings to the RCBOE.

Then IF, nothing is quickly and immediately agreed to, then go outside the RCBOE to the Media.

This is how people get results from Bureaucrats, not using Threats. Bureaucrats clearly understand the legal obligation of Due Diligence.

soapy_725
43757
Points
soapy_725 11/14/12 - 07:58 am
1
0
Someone is lying? In the RCBOE?
Unpublished

Is not the mandatory Asbestos Abatement Program past its time? Just asking. 10 years? 20 years? Courthouses and other public buildings in GA have been demolished because of asbestos and lead paint.

Little Lamb
46903
Points
Little Lamb 11/14/12 - 08:10 am
5
4
Ulcer

This principal would not recognize an asbestos fiber if one slapped him in the face. A person this compulsive and out of control should be removed from his position of authority.

F4therTime
4656
Points
F4therTime 11/14/12 - 08:16 am
6
0
Didn't a visual
Unpublished

electrical inspection cost a local county money in a lawsuit recently???

Riverman1
86856
Points
Riverman1 11/14/12 - 08:52 am
8
0
Courageous Man

Look, this guy could just go along or he can stand up for the kids and faculty. He seems like a concerned leader. He knew he would be ridiculed for what he did. Wearing a sandwich sign takes guts. I hope the BOE is wise enough to recognize his enthusiasm and dedication.

Little Lamb
46903
Points
Little Lamb 11/14/12 - 09:44 am
4
2
Evidence

Here's the thing. The environmental consulting firm said there was no mold problem. If the principal has any evidence to the contrary, he will need to show it to somebody who cares. You can't merely accuse; you must show some tangible evidence.

The likelihood is that there is no mold "problem" at Terrace Manor school. The principal sounds like a person who has allowed himself to become obsessed with the notion that old buildings make people sick. He just stews about that thought day and night, and his better judgment flies out the window.

LillyfromtheMills
13901
Points
LillyfromtheMills 11/14/12 - 09:58 am
4
0
Finally

Someone standing up for themselves and the ones they are in charge of -

Insider Information
4009
Points
Insider Information 11/14/12 - 10:20 am
5
2
There is no boogey man. The

There is no boogey man.

The school board is not involved in some elaborate conspiracy to allow mold to fester and asbestos to be exposed, so that they can sit back and watch students, staff and teachers get sick.

Are our public schools academically wretched places? Yes.

Is the school board and school system intentionally or neglectfully endangering people's health? No.

allhans
24005
Points
allhans 11/14/12 - 10:22 am
4
1
I cannot imagine the

I cannot imagine the frustration one must feel dealing with a board that has no interest in dealing...

Insider Information
4009
Points
Insider Information 11/14/12 - 10:23 am
3
2
Credibility

Before anyone decides to deify this principal, I suggest looking at his credibility.

Hands down, Benton Starks is absolutely the most competent and honest person in this school system.

Can you say the same about Hartley Gibbons? Look at his history.

Riverman1
86856
Points
Riverman1 11/14/12 - 10:50 am
4
0
I believe the principal,

I believe the principal, faculty and parents KNOW there is mold in the school. In addition the practice of painting over asbestos to encapsulate is questionable. Other schools I've read about remove the asbestos. Because the texture material is so thin, it is practically impossible for painting contractors to seal the asbestos. If you test the paint for asbestos you will find it.

Little Lamb
46903
Points
Little Lamb 11/14/12 - 10:55 am
1
0
Asbestos

The only time asbestos is going to be "removed" from a building such as Terrace Manor is when the building is being demolished. The environmental report is available to read in the links up above. Credible experts say there is no problem with mold or asbestos.

Little Lamb
46903
Points
Little Lamb 11/14/12 - 11:00 am
1
0
Goalposts

From the sidebar:

The board agreed to meet Nov. 27 to review the past evaluation for Superintendent Frank Roberson and establish a new format for his next evaluation. The board agreed in September to meet and complete an evaluation but never did. Board member Helen Minchew brought the issue up at Tuesday’s meeting after seeing no progress. “We need to quit dragging our feet,” board member Jimmy Atkins said.

The man was totally disabled for over a year. He has made an impressive recovery. But no objective observer can say Roberson is meeting his job requirements completely. He is doing well enough to keep his job, but he should not be rated "outstanding" and he should not be given a bonus nor a raise.

Riverman1
86856
Points
Riverman1 11/14/12 - 11:02 am
2
0
Augusta State spent millions REMOVING asbestos

Augusta State spent millions REMOVING asbestos roofs and floor tiles from buildings about ten years ago because it was determined as they aged asbestos would be released.

seenitB4
90715
Points
seenitB4 11/14/12 - 11:06 am
2
0
Hmmm...credible experts?

Do you know these experts LL??

I would give the place another check myself...a thorough check.

Insider Information
4009
Points
Insider Information 11/14/12 - 11:15 am
2
2
Hmmm.... A business that gets

Hmmm.... A business that gets paid to remove asbestos and mold comes in and says there is nothing to see.

Why would they lie?

Is the economy booming such that they don't need the money?

Why would they turn down the business?

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