Originally created 09/22/99

Ouster mishandled

No matter how valuable an employee is, none is so important that he or she can't be replaced -- unless your name is Donna S. Martin and have held the $83,665-a-year position of director of nutrition for Richmond County's school system.

Martin appears "irreplace-able," because even though she finally resigned a few weeks ago she's now receiving a misnamed two-month "consul-tant's" salary! Never mind that this past May she pleaded no contest to a serious shoplifting charge at Macy's Department store.

She was put on probation, fined $500, ordered to perform 40 hours of community service and told to turn over $33 a month to her probation supervisor. Yet Martin will still make an extra $17,445 for the next two months until a replacement is found.

Although Martin didn't steal from the school system, she handled school money. So what kind of a message does it send to young people to keep on the payroll an administrator who, in effect, is a thief?

A spokesman for School Superintendent Dr. Charles Larke says the two-month "consultant" deal was part of a negotiating agreement Martin's lawyer made with the school system. Larke was fearful it would be too costly to suspend her without pay and then perform jumping through all the legal hoops.

We're not saying Larke didn't have a valid concern. He does. But in the future, once a school official has been found by a court to have committed the crime of theft, the Board of Education should insist that official be ousted forthwith, lest students and taxpayers are led to think stealing isn't serious even if the thief is caught.

Particularly remiss in this matter is Jello-soft School Board President Mary Oglesby. She approved the Larke-negotiated deal even though several of her Board colleagues told us she hadn't told them about the "severance package." That's not only poor communication, it's poor public service on Oglesby's part.

We understand the superintendent was trying to avert future court costs on the advice of the system's attorney. But we would argue that, now, the public relations black eye is even more costly to the system.

The advisability of any two-month "consulting package" should have been thoroughly debated among all Board members -- not just handed down as a fait accompli.


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