Now that the Richmond County school board started the process to fire Superintendent Charles Larke, the search is on to find reasons to fire him and the votes to carry it out.
The school board had enough votes Tuesday night to get the process going, putting pressure on board members to pick sides.
That motion took a simple majority, but it will take two-thirds of the board to terminate the superintendent. With an empty seat on the 10-member board, the state attorney general could determine how many votes it will take.
"I do have concerns that we may not get the required votes once the hearing takes place, but I believe we have done the right thing in starting the process and letting the public know where certain board members stand," said Jimmy Atkins, who made the motion.
Board member Ken Echols, who seconded the motion, said the swing votes could be Helen Minchew, who voted against initiating the process, and Joe Scott, who abstained.
Coincidentally, Mr. Echols and Mrs. Minchew are neighbors who live only a few doors down from each other.
"She has to make her decision, and I have to make mine," Mr. Echols said.
"It's not about politics. It's about performance, and his performance to me is pretty clear. It's not looking good."
On Wednesday, Mrs. Minchew agreed that it would be best for the school system to replace the superintendent, but she disagrees with the lengthy process to terminate him.
"I totally agree we do need a change, don't get me wrong. We need a change as soon as possible," she said. "I just feel like when we bring charges we're not getting it closed out."
As outlined by Dr. Larke's contract, a letter that will lay out specific grounds for termination will be drawn up and a public hearing held. After the hearing, board members will hold a final vote on whether to terminate the superintendent.
A termination hearing means more time and more money spent on the process, leaving the board "bogged down" and unable to address other issues, Mrs. Minchew said.
"If we go through a public hearing and there is reason to terminate, I will definitely vote to terminate," she said.
Mr. Scott is still unsure where he stands, explaining that he wasn't completely "comfortable" voting either way Tuesday.
"I'm not leaning really any direction right now because there has to be some discussion and charges," he said. "I'm just waiting to see how things are going."
But, for board member A.K. Hasan the issue is clear.
"I think we have a straightforward legitimate issue here, and that is whether Dr. Larke as superintendent of schools occupying that position is in the best interest of the school system at this time, and I think a majority of the school board members think he isn't," Mr. Hasan said. "What academic reasons can you find for keeping him?"
Mr. Echols said a public hearing could be avoided if the superintendent changes his mind and accepts a retirement deal offered to him.
"I hope he'll think about that and want to bring all this to closure," Mr. Echols said. "But, we're prepared to go forward if we have to."
Mr. Hasan said he will move things forward by making a motion at the board's next meeting to begin advertising nationally for Dr. Larke's replacement.
Reach Greg Gelpi at (706) 828-3851 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
GROUNDS FOR FIRING
Richmond County school board members are meeting with board attorney Pete Fletcher to discuss grounds for terminating Superintendent Charles Larke. Here are the reasons they may cite in the charge letter for firing him:
- Willful neglect of duties
- Inciting, encouraging or counseling students to violate any valid state law, municipal ordinance or policy or rule of the local board of education
- To reduce staff due to loss of students or cancellation of programs
- Failure to secure and maintain necessary educational training
- Any other good and sufficient cause
Sources: Richmond County Board of Education and Georgia Code