Director's reassignment sought

Julia Porter-Stein could be out as the Richmond County school system's director of public safety under a proposal to reorganize her department.

A school board committee gave preliminary approval to the change Tuesday night; it still needs the full board's approval next week.

Superintendent Dana Bedden told board members that he has 18 months of observations and feels it would be best to reassign Ms. Porter-Stein to the new position of senior internal affairs investigator, which would be created as part of the reorganization.

Dr. Bedden didn't specify why he wanted new leadership, but when asked after the meeting he said a change could improve morale among public safety officers and bring fresh ideas on the use of technology.

The change would mean a pay cut for Ms. Porter-Stein, but board President Marion Barnes asked members to reconsider the pay change for one year as it has done for other employees.

"You have to be fair," Mr. Barnes said. "You can't just take a person who has served us well and just cut her head off."

Board members gave Dr. Bedden permission to advertise Ms. Porter-Stein's position and seek a replacement. He has no one in mind and said he has spoken with no one about taking the job.

The reorganization creates room for promotion within the department. It now has a director, a captain and five zone sergeants, but little opportunity for officers to advance, Dr. Bedden said. Under the new structure, officers would be allowed to become corporals and one zone sergeant position would become a lieutenant to lead field operations. Currently there is an office for a lieutenant but no person for the office.

In other personnel action, a committee gave preliminary approval to hiring James Whitson as deputy superintendent, replacing James Thompson, who will retire June 30. Dr. Whitson is the assistant superintendent of Sumter County Schools in Americus, Ga.

The proposed personnel actions would be effective July 1.

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

IN OTHER BUSINESS

Committees gave preliminary approval to:

- Create Advanced Placement academies at Laney and Westside high schools. After the first year, the Laney program would function like a magnet school and allow any student in Richmond County to apply.

- Rezone schools to accommodate the opening of Pine Hill Middle School

- Rename the Academy of Rich-mond County football field for former coach Frank Inman Jr.