Education More News |

Terrace Manor principal placed on leave after outburst

Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012 11:07 AM
Last updated Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012 1:25 AM
  • Follow Education

Terrace Manor Elementary School Principal Hartley Gibbons was placed on paid administrative leave Wednesday after yelling at Richmond County Board of Education members during committee meetings Tuesday, alleging they were ignoring serious mold and mildew problems that were making his teachers and staffers ill.

Principal Hartley Gibbons was placed on leave for yelling at the school board about issues at Terrace Manor Elementary.  SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
Principal Hartley Gibbons was placed on leave for yelling at the school board about issues at Terrace Manor Elementary.

Superintendent Frank Roberson said the leave will allow officials to investigate and decide the proper placement for Gibbons.

“It gives us an opportunity to really assess where we are with the situation and determine exactly where we need to move in terms of leadership at the school,” Roberson said.

Gibbons had to be escorted from the district office building Tuesday by two school safety officers as he continued to yell that the deteriorating condition of his school was being ignored. Two agencies that inspected the school in the past two months, along with certified inspectors from the school system, have said the building is safe and free of mold.

Despite the testing, some teachers and parents persist in their concerns and their support of Gibbons.

As the principal was packing items from his office Wednesday while school safety officers stood by, a woman called 911 for three teachers who said they were having trouble breathing.

“They’re passing out; they’re saying they can’t breathe; and their eyes are rolling in their head and stuff,” said the caller, according to the 911 recording obtained by The Augusta Chronicle.

When the ambulance service dispatcher asked the caller what happened at the school to have caused three teachers to fall ill at once, the caller responded “nothing but the mold and mildew.”

Gibbons said briefly Wednesday that teachers have been suffering from respiratory problems this year. He added that his attorney will be speaking for him from this point on.

No sign of mold

Benton Starks, the senior director of facilities services, said he is confident the school is not making teachers sick.

“We called in outside people to check behind us,” Starks said. “We hired a lab to check the lab, which is unusual, but we did it just so we can say we have turned over every rock. If somebody’s getting sick, we can’t show any correlation the building is doing anything.”

Alternative Construction and Environmental Solutions, an environmental consultation and construction management firm, tested for moisture intrusion, the condition of painted surfaces, asbestos-containing materials and mold, and conducted a limited indoor air-quality analysis Sept. 17 and 19.

The firm concluded that all asbestos-containing materials were in good condition and said it found “no visible evidence of mold growth,” although no destructive or invasive inspecting was performed, according to the report.

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 Axis Environmental Services also conducted air and surface testing Nov. 5 but he is still waiting for the results.

Some show symptoms

Gibbons’ outburst Tuesday came as board members discussed priority schools that will receive money for repairs and renovations using special purpose local option sales tax funds.

Terrace Manor is not scheduled to receive any of the tax money this year, and as Gibbons was being led out of the board of education building he yelled about his school’s position on the priority list.

In Phase I of the tax, Terrace Manor received $661,000, which paid for a new physical education building and a roof replacement in 2000. It received another $3.3 million in 2005 for a building renovation, site work and HVAC upgrade.

Although it did not receive money in Phase III or IV of the tax, the district has spent more than $100,000 in the past six months on repairs and lab tests at Terrace Manor.

Still, parents, including Lois Hogden, said children and staff are getting sick and they fear it is from exposure at the school.

Hogden, the Terrace Manor PTA president, said her grandson gets regular headaches and stomachaches after leaving school, which doctors are attributing to allergies.

She said she also suffers severe headaches after volunteering for the day at the school.

“I think it has to do with the building itself,” Hogden said. “As long as I’m not there, I don’t suffer from headaches. I’m in good health, and so is my child. It just changes when you’re there for a while.”

Gibbons’ past actions

Tuesday’s incident isn’t the first time Gibbons’ actions have gained attention.

In 2009, Gibbons and Rickey Lump­kin, now principal of Wilkinson Gardens Elementary School, sued the school district, alleging that officials demoted them from high school assistant principals to elementary principals because they were black and were passed over for more prestigious positions in favor of white women.

In 2011, a three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a federal district court ruling dismissing the claim. The court ruled that the school district showed legitimate reasons to demote and deny promotions to the two men, who received the same job titles, work responsibilities and compensation as the female elementary school principals they were challenging.

On another occasion, also in 2009, he promised students he would spend one night on the roof of Terrace Manor for each grade level that met the proficient level on a math benchmark test.

He kept his promise when the fifth grade exceeded the requirements and spent one night, from 2:30 p.m. to 8:30 a.m., on the roof, passing time by completing staff appraisals and making calls to parents before sleeping on a blanket, pillow and poncho liner.

Hogden said Gibbons’ passion should not be mistaken for trouble-making at the school.

“His passion and love for the kids is there,” she said. “It’s not about me; it’s not about him; it’s about these children.”

Comments (32) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
OpenCurtain 11/15/12 - 09:15 am
Independent Mold Testing Labs

I have heard Eagle Indoor Air Lab in Atlanta is a statewide recognized Independent Testing facility. An has no conflict of interest since it does ZERO cleanup.

Anyone have any other Independent (Lab only) industry recognized testing facilities they could share with us?

Insider Information
Insider Information 11/15/12 - 09:25 am
Gibbons v. Starks

One is right. One is wrong.

It comes down to credibility.

Gibbons has none.

Starks has quite a bit.

NamelessHuman 11/15/12 - 10:37 am
Real Testing Needs To Be Done

There are 3 classrooms completely closed off at the school. No one is allowed in these rooms. These 3 rooms were the worst ones making multiple people sick for multiple years. Real testing needs to be done throughout the entire school. This means checking the HVAC system, getting up into the roof areas where severe water leaks were happening and the damage never being cleaned up. Get behind some walls if you have to. No in depth or invasive testing was ever done.

Young Fred
Young Fred 11/15/12 - 10:55 am
LL, I realize all parties

LL, I realize all parties can’t be 100% satisfied, I thought it would go without saying -“within reason”. I also thought the spontaneous outburst of sickness while the principal was packing, seemed suspect. But IF some of the posters here that claim to have inside knowledge of the school can be believed, I think we should err on the side of caution.

Young Fred
Young Fred 11/15/12 - 11:01 am
OpenCurtain, “sue the Board

OpenCurtain, “sue the Board into bankruptcy” was meant to relay what I believe would be a very serious matter if it’s found that there is indeed a problem. I didn’t mean for it to be taken literally. BUT, the excuse of “the taxpayer ultimately pays”, while true, should not be a deterrent, to severely punishing those who have betrayed the public trust, and sending a message to the rest who serve and/or are paid by the taxpayers. Too often those that have betrayed the public trust suffer little or no consequences.

As far as the testing goes, yes it does appear all is well, and the Board is acting properly. BUT as was pointed out by another poster, the description of the testing done seemed rather cursory.

Reasonable people will assume the Board has acted properly (up to this point), and made common sense decisions to protect students and teachers. BUT when dealing with bureaucrats and BOE officials, that’s not always a wise assumption to make. Though I tend to believe the BOE in this affair, something smells fishy.

dahreese 11/15/12 - 01:02 pm
"Oh and just wait for it,

"Oh and just wait for it, because the race card hasn't been played yet, but it will be. Bet on it!"

Seems you've just laid it on the table.

OpenCurtain 11/15/12 - 01:12 pm
Immunity from Lawsuit for Elected Officials

If any elected official deliberately misleads the public, to the harm of others, that he is paid the represent, there should be NO immunity of office clause.

BUT only those elected persons should held to a Lawsuit and NOT the Taxpayers.

Young Fred
Young Fred 11/15/12 - 01:39 pm
The government entity/unit

The government entity/unit responsible should also be punished and thus the taxpayer, at least in many cases. Simply because the climate and mindset of most govt entities is one of obfuscation and “we know what’s best”.

Putting a little hurt on, and making an example of the entity as a whole, just might change the overall climate and mindset to one of common sense with a healthy dose of "fear of consequences".

In the end this would do much towards actually protecting the taxpayer’s interest.

lovesit42 11/15/12 - 01:50 pm

If anyone has ever spent a day with children and their parents, then you will get a headache. I'm sorry, but this man pulled the race card as a last resort when he was moved. If someone is that ignorant, to have nothing else than to use his race, then he is as crazy as he looked picketing BY HIMSELF. As far as the teachers that are supposedly sick from this "magic mold" the disappears when inspectors come, why wouldn't they agree with him? Paid sick leave for no reason? Teachers would be crazy not to. As far as the children, hmm, well maybe they have health/stress issues because they are taught by substitutes all day instead of a teacher, and maybe if their quick-to-complain parents provided them with breakfast (wow, what a thought, parents feeding their kids instead of the school), and healthy meals that don't consist of sugar-filled Koolaid and junk food. Or how about, being raised by a parent, not a teenager and a grandmother. Bottom line, He's crazy, anyone who would picket by himself on a random Tuesday night for all of Augusta to see his pathetic display would agree, maybe he shouldn't be working with children in such an "influential" community.

dizzy dictator
dizzy dictator 11/15/12 - 11:35 pm
The symptoms sound like a

The symptoms sound like a slow gas leak. If so you will feel better after leaving the school when you get air. Where I worked once, the employees would complain about having headaches, stomach aches and actually we were becoming mean with each other and very tired. We walked drunk like and lost our train of thought midway through our shifts for months not knowing what was the problem. When the gas bill is sent to corporate to be paid, you have no idea how much usage there was. This wasn't the first one either. Then one day everything changed. Everyone were told to evacuate the building because the gas leak was discovered and the fear that the building was going to blow was there. The firetrucks came and wouldn't let us back in for a while. We also had our share of mold problems. Company spent more time covering it up than get rid of it and it did reappear soon after. Employees complained big time and swore it was in the ducts and some mold was. Even though the mold continued to reappear, once the gas leak was fixed we all were much better. Our symptoms were gone. I don't know anyone involved here but I believe that Mr. Gibbons had frustration built up and was totally sick of it. Actually he carried on like we did at work during the gas leak period. We would have out bursts like that and didn't care who heard us. I never apologized to so many people in my life for the way I acted! I am assuming all schools have gas somewhere, like stoves, water heater, ect. Pull the usage for this school and check it out if that's possible. It may have increased.

rebellious 11/15/12 - 11:45 pm

I ditten play the card, and may have taken it off the table by calling it out early. Kinda like telling a pitcher not to touch his cap before the pitch. Or telling someone with a gun not to put their hand in their pocket.

Either way.

For a poster to talk about three rooms which have been quarantined, really, not enough action for the protection of children. Is not the fact or point that sections have been quarantined enough. Maybe not if you are looking for a payday to ride in to the sunset.

Mother of Mary, Sweet Cheeeese Us, unless somebody gets paid, we aint happy. Dewey, Cheatum and Howe have to be made whole for something like this to go away. Betcha by golly howe, the principal reacting crazy like this is due to the asbestos/mold which hasn't been proven to be present.

Can you say settlement?

But folks, call me crazy, but this type of reaction is related to the fundamental hange America voted for. So, iffen you are a Cracker, and iffen you offend a person who looks like Barack Obama, watch your sweet bippy. Ain't me saying so, just watching the news.

Mark My Words. I mighta been born at night, but it wasn't last night!

Back to Top
Search Augusta jobs
Top headlines
As son was dying in hot car, man sent teen sex texts
BRUNSWICK, Ga. - A Georgia man swapped sexual text messages with a teenage girl while his toddler son sat forgotten and dying in the back seat of the father's sweltering SUV, his young texting ...