Originally created 02/27/06

Hasan has had dealings with school chiefs before



The similarities haven't gone unnoticed.

Not long after A.K. Hasan was elected to the Richmond County Board of Education in 1981, the board chose not to renew Superintendent William G. Oellerich's contract.

Fast forward two-plus decades.

The same A.K. Hasan returns to a seat on the same school board, and he begins raising questions about the contract of current Superintendent Charles Larke.

"There's no effort here to fire," Mr. Hasan said in an interview last week. "The effort is based on just trying to give the system a clean transition and was basically asking him to be part of that and be positive in terms of being part of that."

According to The Augusta Chronicle reports from the 1980s, Mr. Hasan was instrumental in the ouster of Mr. Oellerich in January 1983, a little more than a year after being elected to the board.

Fellow board members at the time told of a deal he made that enabled him to become president of the board if, at the same meeting, he and other black board members went along with the ouster of the superintendent.

"I think over time we realized we were of like minds," Mr. Hasan said. "The people of like mind in one thing were of like mind in another thing. There was no deal-making."

Herb Beckham, one of the leaders of the 1983 ouster, recalled removing Mr. Oellerich as "probably one of the biggest political surprises ever."

Mr. Beckham, who remains friends with Mr. Hasan, said he believes Mr. Hasan's latest effort is simply an attempt to clarify Dr. Larke's contract. But, he said, there could be elements of history repeating itself.

If Mr. Hasan has any intention of getting rid of Dr. Larke, he is following the same "pattern" as board members who wanted Mr. Oellerich out in the 1980s, Mr. Beckham said.

He called Mr. Hasan a "very bright individual."

"The biggest mistake Dr. Larke can make is to underestimate A.K. Hasan," Mr. Beckham said.

"He's a combatant. He's not the kind of person to sit in the corner and watch the world pass him by."

Others don't see a parallel. Thales Elliot, who served on the board at the time it chose not to renew Mr. Oellerich's contract, says the actions of 23 years ago are nothing like those of today .

"His time was up, so we didn't renew him," Mr. Elliot remembered.

Mr. Hasan's recent questioning, however, has been sudden.

"I can't see why anybody would jump on a man if he's doing a good job," Mr. Elliot said of Dr. Larke.

But that's how it is sometimes, he said. No matter how well you do your job, someone isn't going to be happy.

Nevertheless, he said, the superintendent shouldn't be the focus of the school system.

"The school board runs the system," Mr. Elliot said. "If you have a good school board, regardless of who the superintendent is, you can make him do (what you want)."

From his point of view, Mr. Hasan says there is only one similarity between the two situations - racial politics.

"They always put out that I sold out the black community," Mr. Hasan said about his first service on the board.

Many believe he gained the support needed to be chosen school board president - the first black board member so chosen - in exchange for helping vote Mr. Oellerich out.

Mr. Hasan says the "old machinery" of bad-mouthing him in the black community has started again, and he says it won't work.

"Just as they failed in the past, they will fail again this time," he said.

In 1983, he had the support of a majority of the black members of the board, and he does so once again, he said.

Board members Joe Scott and Barbara Pulliam showed their support during a news conference called last week by Mr. Hasan to address the superintendent's contract.

The contract issue is expected to become more focused in the weeks ahead.

All school board members are expected to submit their evaluations of Dr. Larke on March 6. They will then tabulate and discuss the results during a special meeting the next day. On March 9, they will discuss the results with Dr. Larke.

Reach Greg Gelpi at (706) 828-3851 or greg.gelpi@augustachronicle.com.

THEN AND NOW


THEN

- A.K. Hasan was elected to the Richmond County Board of Education in November 1981.

- In January 1983, the school board ousted Superintendent William G. Oellerich.

NOW

- Mr. Hasan was re-elected to the school board in December 2005.

- Earlier this month, he began publicly questioning the legality of Superintendent Charles Larke's contract.

Source: The Augusta Chronicle archives