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Richmond County school board votes to keep Superintendent Frank Roberson for another year

Board vote split on racial lines

Tuesday, Aug 20, 2013 8:38 PM
Last updated Wednesday, Aug 21, 2013 12:28 AM
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The Richmond County Board of Education renewed Superintendent Frank Roberson’s contract by one year Tuesday with a vote divided primarily down racial lines.

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After the vote to extend his contract, Richmond County schools Superintendent Frank Roberson said he is the same person the board hired three years ago.  SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
After the vote to extend his contract, Richmond County schools Superintendent Frank Roberson said he is the same person the board hired three years ago.

After about 30 minutes in a closed-door executive session, board member Marion Barnes moved to renew Roberson’s contract by one year. In a roll call vote, five black board members voted in favor of the motion while four white members voted against.

That left the deciding vote to Frank Dolan, who took nearly a minute to make his decision.

“I have big misgivings for (Ro­berson’s) ability to schedule things and do the job and keep the budget in order,” Dolan said after the meeting. “But to be the embarrassment that we would have been as a board going down racial lines, it just screamed at me we are back in the 1950s.”

Dolan said he could not tolerate the racial undertones tied to the vote or the last-minute notice they would be giving Roberson if the contract was not renewed.

Roberson was hired in August 2010 on a three-year $170,000 contract. With a background in school reform, he was largely seen as a savior to rescue the struggling school system. He fell ill six months later with complications from an abnormal clustering of blood vessels on the brain, known as an arteriovenous malformation, and underwent emergency brain surgery.

Roberson was absent for the large part of 19 months, returning on a part-time basis in December 2011 and full time in September 2012. Roberson said doctors told his family after his surgery that he would never walk, talk or possibly see again.

With physical therapy and “help from God,” Roberson made a remarkable recovery, saying Tuesday he has no professional limitations and is “the Frank Roberson that this board hired.”

“I’ve not been very bashful about my reliance on God,” Roberson said. “I rely on him for all things. He was even in the middle of this decision tonight.”

Board member Barbara Pulliam said she did not believe the vote was race driven but fueled more by the desire to give the superintendent a second chance to prove himself. Because of the timing of his illness and short period since his return, the board has conducted only one evaluation on Roberson – a process that is supposed to be performed annually, according to his contract.

“I don’t know why it was divided racially but it wasn’t a racial thing,” Pulliam said. “People just see that. I thought they needed to give him more time. A full year is fair, so let’s see what he can do.”

Dolan disagreed, saying he spoke personally to three board members – although he refused to give names – who stated they did not believe Roberson was capable of performing the job but could not vote against him because of pressure from the black community.

Dolan also said the board did a terrible job preparing for this decision, which took place two days before Roberson’s contract was to expire, leaving no time for him to make personal arrangements if his contract was not renewed.

“I told everyone on the board this man is a wonderful person and I have a soft spot in my heart for him because he is so kind, but he is not the same person and he needs to get his affairs in order,” Dolan said. “To crush an individual like we were fixing to do to somebody is against my heart of hearts. That doesn’t mean we’re not going to try to get the very best qualified person in this period of time … I did this tonight because I didn’t want to be a part of something bigger and nastier.”

After the vote, Board President Venus Cain called Dolan “a hell of a man.”

“For all of us it’s been stressful, it’s been trying and it’s been emotional, but the bottom line is we now have to do what we need to do to move this system forward,” Cain said.

Roberson has presented the board with several initiatives aimed at improving student achievement in recent months. He proposed a new data tracking system where his cabinet will analyze achievement scores with principals monthly and regularly compare test data with 11 comparable districts. He also has initiatives in place for more parental engagement.

Board member Jack Padgett, who voted against the renewal, said progress will be difficult. Padgett said renewing Roberson’s contract only postponed the process of finding another superintendent who can reform the district for the long-haul.

If Roberson’s contract is not renewed when it expires in August 2014, the board will have to wait until the following February to begin a search to coincide with the employment cycle of superintendents across the country.

That will be more than a year wasted in a time when the district is facing devastating budget issues and a crisis in student achievement.

“Right now we are not in a good place,” Padgett said. “We are under very difficult conditions.”

HOW THEY VOTED

Six members of the Richmond County Board of Education voted “yes” to extend Dr. Frank Roberson’s contract for a year. Four voted “no.”

Jimmy Atkins No

Marion E. Barnes Yes

Venus Cain Yes

Eloise K. Curtis Yes

Frank Dolan Yes

Alex Howard No

Helen Minchew No

Jack Padgett No

Barbara Pulliam Yes

Patsy Scott Yes

Comments (47) Add comment
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corgimom
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corgimom 08/21/13 - 02:41 pm
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They kept him on because 1)

They kept him on because 1) they already know they won't find anybody decent, they can't pay enough and 2) the school system is so broke, it can't afford to spend the money to look for anybody else, it's very expensive to search, it's not like hiring people for Walmart

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 08/21/13 - 03:18 pm
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Walmart

They might have better luck finding a talented person at Walmart than by looking for a D.Ed. in the halls of academia.

validPoint
982
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validPoint 08/21/13 - 04:00 pm
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No offers

There are few, if any jobs out there for D.Ed. Evidently, the districts are not willing to pay. My friend, who earned one and has been un-employed for two years after serving as a Superintendent in one of the mid-western central states is being told that the credentials over qualify. One potential employer said they would rather hire someone and over the years have them move up the ladder rather than hire someone already with the status because money for education has really dwindled. She has moved across the country and continues to be told the same thing.

We are encouraging her to serve as a consultant. That field seems to be a little more lucrative across the board.

corgimom
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corgimom 08/21/13 - 04:26 pm
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Hahaha, LL, they might even

Hahaha, LL, they might even do better!

corgimom
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corgimom 08/21/13 - 04:29 pm
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If you can be off work for

If you can be off work for nearly 2 years, and everybody get along without you, I think that maybe it's time to step down.

And it has nothing to do with skin color.

chascushman
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chascushman 08/21/13 - 04:52 pm
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"My friend, who earned one
Unpublished

"My friend, who earned one and has been un-employed for two years after serving as a Superintendent in one of the mid-western central states is being told that the credentials over qualify."
valid Point, why did she lose her superintendent job?

validPoint
982
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validPoint 08/21/13 - 05:02 pm
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Understandable Corgi

Corgi, I agree with you. What actually happened to this individual is a district hired her. After a few years, her ideas were not exactly ones they could control. In essence, she was a little advanced for them, so they found a way to fire her. She counteracted and won a law suite against them. She had no dependants other than herself. So, by firing her, the district gave her the flexibility to "roam around" a little bit. Consequently, she chose to further her education, which has not served her in her chosen profession. Strange, but true. I kid you not.

The consulting business is offering more... minus the headaches associated with serving in public education. Besides, there is more security in the penal system for educators than there is in many of the public education facilities today. Sad to say. There is not enough money anywhere that can adequately compensate the present day educators based on the things that have infilterated in the system.

You are absolutely right, it had nothing to do with race.

validPoint
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validPoint 08/21/13 - 05:07 pm
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Hi Chascushman

Chascushman, nice hearing from you. I believe my comment to Corgi answered your question.

candidperson
34
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candidperson 08/21/13 - 06:18 pm
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1
I am African-American and I

I am African-American and I think the contract should not of been renewed. It is unfortunate that the Superintendent fell ill, but he is not a young man any more. He had a very serious surgery and should of done what is best for the school system and just took disability, if qualified for it. Although, if full healthy I think he would of done great things but I think he is not capable to run the school system so the same ole "buddy system" continues in Richmond County.

For example, on the first day of school when I took my daughter to school at Sego Middle School, I saw the same failing administration there. Sego has been a failing school for 4 consecutive years and the same principal and the same assistant principal, who has been demoted before, are still at Sego. On the other hand, teachers told me that the principal had cut 2 good teachers. The instructional coaches should of been cut instead, put both of them back in the classroom. Why pay these 2 educators $65,000+ to print out lessons off the internet and tell teachers to use with their students. This is what several teachers told me.

One of the cut was a teacher who is working on his doctorate at the University of Georgia and only in his 20s, but since he stood up to the administration he got transferred. Also, it is a shame, a teacher told me that the average age for the connection teacher is 50 and one guy is 60, but the 20 year old gets cut. In addition, my daughter was in the 60 year teacher class last year and told me that he regularly falls asleep in the class and can not control his class. It's a new school year and 2 teachers complained to me already that the principal just doesn't get it. The principal thinks a new lesson plan template will correct student behavior! OMG!

Furthermore, I am glad this will be my daughter's last year at Sego. Having 3 children come through Sego I understand the problems faced there but teachers tell me all the time that there is no leadership at Sego and I agree! I feel until a Superintendent is able to come and visit schools and see the disasters going on then the same ole buddy system will continue. I wish the best for Dr. Roberson and Sego's teachers.

dichotomy
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dichotomy 08/21/13 - 06:37 pm
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Well, I left a comment last

Well, I left a comment last night but it seems to have disappeared....with no explanation.

So let me simply say that they could let Roberson go and leave the position vacant and make just as much progress as they have since he has been here. He is supposed to be a superintendent.....not a mascot. If Roberson was white, they would have started the search for his replacement over 2 years ago. At $170,000 a year, we cannot keep him for a pet, which is essentially what has been going on for the past couple of years.

dichotomy
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dichotomy 08/21/13 - 06:44 pm
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And Dolan made a race based

And Dolan made a race based vote to avoid the appearance of it being a racial vote......HUH? Why don't you just wear a sign that says "I will vote the wrong way to keep from being called a racist."

I do hope your constituents contact you with their STRONG disagreement of your spineless, weak kneed vote.

validPoint
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validPoint 08/21/13 - 07:34 pm
0
1
Well

Well, there might be more to consider in this situation that meets the eye. I believe the report says Dr. Roberson had been on the job for 10 months before he came down with this brain disorder. The right legal team just might be able to have the district paying more than $170,00 yearly if he isn't handled properly. After all, he did not come to the district with the ailment, this is something he incured while on the job. Surely, that carries some weight. Times have changed, some people might not be so easy to "git rid of".

GnipGnop
11745
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GnipGnop 08/21/13 - 08:20 pm
0
1
I am sure he is a nice guy but I sure would like to know

what place would hire someone who hasn't even done his job and has been a health risk for the better part of his contract and reward him for it. I'm a compassionate guy but come on. Do you think you would continue to get a contract for any job if you couldn't perform and didn't perform?

ragingbull
945
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ragingbull 08/21/13 - 08:35 pm
1
1
this is something he incured

this is something he incured while on the job. Surely, that carries some weight." But it certainly would not be considered an occupational illness.

mj1997
7
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mj1997 08/21/13 - 08:46 pm
1
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AUGUSTA GA

AUGUSTA GA. STILL RACISM NOTHING CHANGE.TV STATIONS IN CSRA JUST AS RACISM TOO.

Little Lamb
44871
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Little Lamb 08/21/13 - 09:14 pm
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Candid

Thank you, candidperson, for your honest and insightful comments. I hope you come back and add comments in the future. This comments section has plenty of room for differing vewpoints - - - - and there is always room for facts.

GnipGnop
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GnipGnop 08/21/13 - 09:32 pm
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And there it goes

The race card is played.....figures

validPoint
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validPoint 08/21/13 - 09:54 pm
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No, not "occupational Illness"

No,, not " occupational illness" that term would not be approperate in this situation. However, "Procurring Cause' or maybe "shows a correlation between" with supporting evidence are terms that would fit. I have only heard of "Occupational Illness" when it comes to jobs like Coal Mining (Lung Disease), and the sort.

validPoint
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validPoint 08/21/13 - 10:05 pm
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GnipGnop

The race card has been dealt, so, what's wrong with playing it? Were it not for the ability to play the hand I am dealt on a daily basis, I could not survive.

GnipGnop
11745
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GnipGnop 08/21/13 - 10:17 pm
0
1
Because it's the boy who cried wolf of the century

It's been played so much when not warranted that it is not taken seriously when those that are actually aggrieved have legitimate complaints.

GnipGnop
11745
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GnipGnop 08/21/13 - 10:28 pm
0
1
Had nothing to do with his job.....

A brain AVM is an abnormal connection between arteries and veins in your brain. Doctors believe that a brain AVM develops during fetal development. Why this occurs for some babies and not others is unknown.

palmetto1008
9782
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palmetto1008 08/21/13 - 10:43 pm
3
0
Jesus...this is not a race
Unpublished

Jesus...this is not a race issue or a ADA issue (that Fiat claims it might be)....It's the fact that Roberson can't do his job for a legitimate reason and the board can't either for no good reason.

Fiat_Lux
14994
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Fiat_Lux 08/22/13 - 11:20 am
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@Palmetto

You probably should talk to someone who actually knows something about the politics of this BOE and about what influenced this vote in particular, including the reasons why it turned out as it did.

I did.

validPoint
982
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validPoint 08/22/13 - 03:06 pm
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...and so...

Talk is cheap. Wisdom, knowledge and Understanding is priceless.

Darby
24763
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Darby 08/22/13 - 04:00 pm
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The solution may lie in part with black

commissioners and School Board members demonstrating a modicum of leadership and wisdom.

That would require letting go of the past. Yes, I know, that would take a great deal of courage.

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