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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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willie7
1047
Points
willie7 08/20/13 - 09:44 pm
1
0
An excellent decision. Thank
Unpublished

An excellent decision.
Thank you Frank Dolan for the position you took and your explanation.

Little Lamb
47986
Points
Little Lamb 08/20/13 - 09:49 pm
6
6
Stand Up

Dolan sounds like a stand up guy. Let's move forward.

But don't let this contract sneak up to the last minute next year.

SDW30809
51
Points
SDW30809 08/20/13 - 09:49 pm
12
6
So basically...

He still has his job because he's black. How nice. Not best qualified. Not because he did an outstanding job. But because of his race. I am so impressed with RCBOE

Little Lamb
47986
Points
Little Lamb 08/20/13 - 09:53 pm
8
5
Whiner

Padgett sounds like a whiner.

All the board has to do is begin a search for a new superintendent now. There's nothing wrong with conducting interviews while Roberson still serves. Roberson knows he's secure for a year, and the board can dig in at a measured pace for a replacement.

Padgett can go pound sand.

triscuit
3223
Points
triscuit 08/20/13 - 09:53 pm
11
4
RCBOE...second only to RC

RCBOE...second only to RC commission as Most Dysfunctional Bunch in the south.

rebellious
21419
Points
rebellious 08/20/13 - 09:58 pm
12
5
An Incorrect Interpretation

may be made when the mention of votes along racial lines is mentioned.
Several possibilities of interpretation exist. If I may expound...

First, the obvious takeaway: The black folks voted for and the white folks against simply because Roberson is black.

Examined deeper, it is apparent to many that Robersons selection was by the same group, and if I remember correctly, he was black when that original vote to hire was taken. And I think that vote was unanimous. (Correct me if I am wrong on the color of Roberson or the vote count).

Second possible interpretation. The people voting against Robersons contract extension (who just happened to be white) have the best interest of the school system in mind. They recognize that a horrific brain injury has caused major difficulties in the processing of data, and decision making, reasoning, and the high level management and planning capabilities expected (see interpretation #1) and he is not capable of delivering, despite intention and heart.

Third possible interpretation: The people who voted to extend the contract of Dr. Roberson (who a majority happened to be black) are in the business of giving second chances, or protecting people with the same skin color, or......Hell, I don't know.

The fourth interpretation: White people are blue eyed devils who only want to keep the brothers down. They are the "Man" and just don't want us to get ahead.

Fifth Interpretation: Black people want a black man in the job, no matter the capability or capacity for moving the system forward (refer to articles on Charles Larke, cowboy boot et al)

Sixth Interpretation: The children and teachers matter less than making sure we fit the proper racial menu of the day. Court order lifted, great, but doing the right thing for the kids be danged.

For the record....I met and had discussion with Dr Roberson pre Brain trauma. I was flabbergasted at his remarkable ability to recall names (mine after one meeting) and weave them into a speech he delivered less that 30 minutes later. I, like many, was filled with hope and dreamy aspirations for our school system, and would have fought a person with negative comments. But things happen beyond our control and people emerged changed. It is a fool who fails to recognize these things. I sincerely think we have such on our school board today.

I hate what happened to Dr Roberson. I can not change it. I also recognize that a man of his stature would have been totally out of his mind to not be prepared, whether that be insurance or self insurance through prudent savings and investment. That being said, we are not in the business of charity at the risk of our children's education.

Black Board of Education members: Time to grow a pair and make those tough decisions! Ooops, missed this chance.

concerned consumer
28
Points
concerned consumer 08/20/13 - 11:47 pm
4
2
Board vote split on racial lines

Augusta Chronicle Thanks for the headlines. Once again Richmond County media makes it a racial issue.
Why not print quotes by black board members that questioned Roberson's and his cabinet's ability to produce a budget that did not reduce school employees and continue furlough days in a timely manner.
If my memory serves me, President Venus Cain, Barbara Pulliam and Patsy Scott where very out spoken at that time. Leading your readers to believe that Roberson was not capable of the leadership needed to move the school system forward.
As I review this, I see this as a lack of good judgement by the ELECTED BOARD MEMBERS, therefore why make it a racial issue. Headlines should have read BOARD FAILS TO SUPPORT THE STUDENTS AND TAX PAYERS OF RICHMOND COUNTY.

corgimom
36770
Points
corgimom 08/21/13 - 03:29 am
7
6
The problem is that with the

The problem is that with the dire fiscal crisis that RCBOE faces, nobody in their right mind would want to come to RC. Even in the best of times, it's difficult. You wouldn't be able to attract quality candidates, you wouldn't be able to pay them what they are worth.

jmo
17767
Points
jmo 08/21/13 - 04:01 am
8
5
RCBOE is as......

big of a joke as the RC Commission, and we have them both.

scoobynews
3896
Points
scoobynews 08/21/13 - 04:12 am
5
3
Good point corgi.

RCBOE would have a hard time finding someone else who would want to come into that hornets nest. Who suffers most? The teachers and the students.

avidreader
3474
Points
avidreader 08/21/13 - 04:45 am
6
0
Wow!

A lot of boiling commentary today. Believe it or not, I don't have much to say. I'll just trust my principal's leadership and keep moving forward.

palmetto1008
9782
Points
palmetto1008 08/21/13 - 04:51 am
10
3
It's not only Dr. Roberson
Unpublished

It's not only Dr. Roberson who is not capable of doing his job, but he has a legitimate medical excuse.

pantherluvcik
628
Points
pantherluvcik 08/21/13 - 05:21 am
7
7
THe people who voted to keep

The people who voted to keep him are racist how? I did not hear any of them say that they were keeping him because he was African American other than the commentors here, oh and Dolan. The situation is a bit complicated because of his illnes during his tenure as superintendant, but to insult him and make a statement that it's welfare because he's black is not only an insult to him but reminds me of the saying "look at the pot calling the kettle black". So if he were white and the same set of circumstances existed would you still call it welfare to give him another chance to improve? Probably not, clear definition of racism. But i'm not shocked by anything posted in this forum anymore since we are in the South, I guess it's acceptable. I hope he does well in the coming year and the Board is better prepared when it is time to reconsider his employment with Richmond County.

palmetto1008
9782
Points
palmetto1008 08/21/13 - 05:49 am
7
3
If the Board has not
Unpublished

If the Board has not conducted an annual evaluation as required, it puts them in a legal quagmire when the question of contract renewal comes up. That's what I'm referring to when I say it did not do its job.

ragingbull
945
Points
ragingbull 08/21/13 - 05:52 am
7
6
If he was white and the same

If he was white and the same conditions existed, he would have better sense than to try and keep working. Instead of making a laughing stock of the RCBOE, Roberson should retire on a medical disability, and stay on in an interim capacity until an adequate candidate can be hired. All the talk about blaming the plight of the students and teachers on the actions of the school board is like blaming the board of directors of major corporations for the cuts that employees are having to endure because of Obamacare. Who is really at fault here?

Truth Matters
7825
Points
Truth Matters 08/21/13 - 06:15 am
6
7
RCBOE vote

Does the fact that the paper never fails to draw a distinction in voting based on race make the paper a race hustler? Only this paper thinks that how the votes fell along racial lines is relevant to this story. If the readers in this forum can so easily believe that one group voted to renew the contract because of race, the inverse could be true__those voting NOT to renew for another year did so because of race.

Now, I do not think either is the case, but I hope the authors of these comments will stop sometimes and weigh all sides of a situation before going into orbit.

Mr. Dolan, hang tough. The name calling that you are being subjected to is par for the course around these pages. I can't say that I agree with your position, but that does not merit the name calling that is going on here.

Riverman1
90653
Points
Riverman1 08/21/13 - 07:29 am
7
5
Reality and Logic

Reality says Dr. Roberson had a debilitating stroke. Medical retirements are usually provided in such cases. Dolan making this into a racial matter is not being logical. His suggestion of dire outcomes because of reactions by the black community is to exaggerate a possible danger well beyond its actual likelihood. That’s a classic fallacy.

nocnoc
47281
Points
nocnoc 08/21/13 - 07:38 am
7
3
3 tax increases in 2 Years

The wife and I were having 2nd thoughts about moving, given recent
family care and medial issues.

But we only continue see little or no real improvement. Just the usual
low continuous down hill slide in the areas of Social Issues, Business,
Economics, and 2 Downtown political groups that are more interested in a Tinkling contest than fixing things.

We see 1970's Atlanta all over again and we won't wait 30+ years for a "possible" turn- around and partial De-consolidation.

allhans
24520
Points
allhans 08/21/13 - 07:46 am
7
0
The kids, people. The

The kids, people. The KIDS!!! Are they no longer important?

Riverman1
90653
Points
Riverman1 08/21/13 - 08:12 am
5
2
I Supported Dr. Roberson

I almost forgot, but I was an avid supporter of Dr. Roberson when a new superintendent was chosen. He was my pick. I also supported him when he first had the stroke and chastised those who were writing him off. Now it's simply time for him to take a medical retirement. No disrespect intended. I honestly can't believe what I read when some on the BOE said it is a racial matter.

seenitB4
93730
Points
seenitB4 08/21/13 - 08:20 am
3
5
Amazing logic going on here

"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."

Richmond county please wake up....you are under a dark cloud & it is getting darker.....read Rebellious post again & try to learn from him.

seenitB4
93730
Points
seenitB4 08/21/13 - 08:37 am
6
0
Medical Disability

Is not an ugly word.

just an opinion
2840
Points
just an opinion 08/21/13 - 08:42 am
4
6
Lets do this

It's all about race and money right? Give him the biggest severance we can and then agree that the new superintendent has to be black. Then go after the BEST candidate (must be black) we can find.

pearlthesquirrel
786
Points
pearlthesquirrel 08/21/13 - 09:08 am
1
0
...dynamite go BOOM
Unpublished

And that article describes Augusta in a nutshell......go figure it out.

lifelongresident
1323
Points
lifelongresident 08/21/13 - 09:53 am
0
1
"wee'se gots to keep da black
Unpublished

"wee'se gots to keep da black man fo sho, cause dis way we kin prah-teck da chillrin from da white man who be racist...i's dont not aint care dat mista robinson had a stroke, cause he bettah nah and will need he job cause he may not do good, but he tryin and jess like obama tryin dats guud enuff fo me, cause we gots to hep deese kids by gibbin dem free food and stuff cause dey mammy's caint not do it deyselfs so its up to us to hep dem raise dey kids, dats why errybody git free lunch cause dey foo stamps and welfare dont not aint go far nuff fo dem to buy food fo dey kids, cause da mammy gots to use her foo stamps and welfare to but da latest outfit from CITI TRENDS for da club and to buy hur boyfriend de jour hs steaks, skrimps, and crab legs and dats leebs not nuff to but food fo dey kids"

daphne3520
950
Points
daphne3520 08/21/13 - 09:54 am
1
0
internationallyunknown
4635
Points
internationallyunknown 08/21/13 - 09:56 am
6
2
The race of the next person

Only in Augusta...

Fiat_Lux
16246
Points
Fiat_Lux 08/21/13 - 11:34 am
4
6
There is another big reason (in addition to those above)

It's about the incredible hit the school system would take because of the Americans with Disabilities Act. After suing us, Roberson would walk away with at least a decade's worth of pay, leaving us taxpayers to support not one but two superintendents at pretty darn impressive salary and benefits levels.

And yes, it also is about the fact that Richmond County absolutely DOES NOT have the tax base necessary to have its school system, and it is not going to as long as we have such a large proportion of indigent and non-productive people of our population who are producing children, at a steady and even increasing rate, all of whom must be educated (and fed, housed, transported and receive medical care and cell phones, and so forth) on the taxpayers dime. There simply aren't enough taxpayers to pay for the indigent and their offspring. It's sad, but it is the hard, cold reality.

Some may say it's because of discrimination that there are so many indigent. Some may say it's lack of education or motivation. I say, people who want to escape dependency in this country can do it, even with the very real obstacles that face many children living in poverty and genuinely dealing with discrimination. There are so many opportunities, so many people looking for ways to help kids trying to escape and do well. The problem we face is that the culture we are trying to impact with education rejects the kind of success an education enables. Success in the intransigent culture of dependency, which includes gangs, is a different thing completely than what the "American Dream" is about.

And when those who pay taxes get taxed/mugged/victimized beyond their willingness to be deprived of their security and their ability to pay for their own families' needs, we will move away, leaving a JV Detroit in our wake.

Dixieman
16595
Points
Dixieman 08/21/13 - 03:15 pm
6
0
Sigh

Another racially divided vote -- who woulda thunk it??
The ONLY way to get these clowns unanimous would be to nominate an Asian for something, and then we'd see 9-0 against!
I love Augusta and the CSRA, but our politicians are the worst feature of local life by far.

validPoint
982
Points
validPoint 08/21/13 - 01:40 pm
2
3
Sometimes I Wonder

As much as the races have been tampered with, and everybody seems to be "mixed with something" why can't the topic of "racism' just simply go away...as i read this article, it helps me to see that "no man is an island", and God has a way of dealing with creation in a very special manner. Folk who covertly use all type of demeaning words in an attempt to belittle others would do well to guard their mouth, because one person's downfall could very well be another's. No one on this earth has a monopoly on anything. Take a look around, even the earth is opening up and swallowing folk along with their earthly possessions.

Mr. Dolan seems to be "a man with a conscious', and Mr. Robinson seems to be quiet a fighter. Personally, I do not believe Mr. Robinson continues to have the job because he is black, I believe he has the job, and even his life based on what has happened to him, because of favor that God in his miracleous way has seen fit to bestow upon him.

May the best thing happen in this situation for all involved, especially the children.

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