Before the called meeting of the Sumter County Board of Education at 5 p.m. Friday got underway, there two items added to the agenda. Superintendent Donnie Smith added discussion of the FY2015 tentative budget and Board member Kelvin Pless added the superintendent’s evaluation.
The first order of business was the vote on the Furlow Charter School petition. Board member Michael Mock moved to approve the petition which was seconded by Board member Meda Krenson. Before the vote was taken, the superintendent explained, “for the benefit of those present,” that the Board had discussed the petition at length in its out-of-town Board retreat a couple of weeks ago. Chairman Edith Green asked for the vote. Board members Mock, Krenson and Michael Busman voted for approval while Board members Alice Green, Michael Lewis and Pless voted against. Chairman Green broke the tie by voting against. Board member Penny Taft was not present.
The superintendent briefly discussed the FY2015 budget and said with the use of the old SPLOST revenues, there would be no need to raise taxes. The Board decided to hold a called meeting at 6 p.m. June 24 to approve the final FY2015 budget.
Pless then moved to extend the superintendent’s contract until June 30, 2017, which was seconded by Alice Green.
Busman voiced concerns. He said that since this was a called meeting, he didn’t think it was correct to add items to the agenda.
“Shouldn’t this be discussed and not just voted on?” he asked, adding that he wasn’t necessarily opposed to the motion but to the procedure because of Georgia’s open meetings laws.
Mock agreed with Busman, saying this wasn’t something he was prepared to voted on with five minutes of discussion and without all Board members present.
“He (Donnie Smith) was hired when not all the Board members were present ... This is the most important thing a Board does, hiring a superintendent,” Mock said.
Krenson said that at the Board retreat, they were given an evaluation packet to go over, and “is there a rush to deadline?”
Chairman Green said, “An evaluation doesn’t necessarily determine a contract.”
Mock disagreed, saying that an evaluation plays “a large role in whether to extend a contract.”
At that point, Superintendent Smith snapped back, “Let’s just evaluate me in the public then. Pull out the evaluation instrument right now. I didn’t ask for this. I’ve worked hard ... Go ahead and evaluate me in front of the public,” he ended, red-faced.
Busman reiterated that he didn’t think it was the proper time to do this. He said he was told the discussion would be in June.
Smith retorted, “Ms. Taft’s not here. She’s been on the Board a very short time and has no idea what we’ve done for the past two years. She doesn’t have the wherewithal to evaluate the superintendent.”
His voice rising in volume and pitch, Smith said he would make copies of the evaluation tool to hand out to Board members right then and there.
Mock suggested adding the item to the agenda for Monday’s work session.
Alice Green, speaking barely above a whisper, said that as a Board, “sometimes we tend to procrastinate.”
Mock said when the item was added to the agenda, they were told “ ‘superintendent’s contract,’ not extension or anything else.”
The chair called for a vote. Alice Green, Lewis and Pless voted for. Busman abstained. Mock and Krenson did not vote.
Again, Busman said, “I’m not opposed to it; I just don’t like the process.”
Smith thanked the Board for the contract extension and said again that he “didn’t ask for it.”
Smith also reiterated that that the accreditation status of the Sumter County School System had been upgraded from “Accredited-Warned” to “Accredited.”