The Clarke County School District Board of Education removed former superintendent Demond Means from its payroll on Thursday. The vote passed 5-4 during a special livestreamed session.
CCSD placed Means on leave in December following his resignation in the wake of ethics complaints filed against him. Means will receive a settlement of over $637,000, according to the legal agreement passed Thursday. Means and the district agreed to waive the right to sue each other over the matter.
Greg Davis, Patricia Yager, Kara Dyckman, John Knox and Tawana Mattox voted for the separation. Board president LaKeisha Gantt, Antwon Stephens, Linda Davis and Charles Worthy were opposed.
Worthy expressed concerns about the district’s transparency while Davis said Means was the one who built the foundation for the district to succeed.
“I’m confident that if we showed this level of support to Dr. Means that we have shown to [interim superintendent Xernona] Thomas, we would be at a totally different place,” Davis said. “It is the board’s responsibility to support its only employee, which is the superintendent. And so I’m finding it very difficult to support a decision to end this contract in this way.”
According to an article in Flagpole, the ethics complaint filed against Means claimed that he plagiarized a letter to colleagues, accepted an improper gift and lied on his application for superintendent.
The board conducted the meeting over Zoom, as it has done since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. With the vote tied at 4-4, the meeting hit a roadblock when Mattox, the District 9 representative, didn’t respond to the roll call.
Board members suggested everything, from Mattox typing her vote into the chat to turning her camera on to give a thumbs up or down. Less than five minutes later, Mattox could finally speak to her colleagues.
She answered ‘yes’. That still wasn’t enough.
“Dr. Mattox,” Thomas said, “was your ‘yes’ for the vote or was your ‘yes’ that yes, you can hear us?”
The question was met with several more seconds of silence.
“She’s gone again,” said Michael Pruett, the school district’s attorney. “Dr. Gantt, if you have Dr. Mattox’s number, let’s just call her and she can speak on your computer mic.”
Gantt couldn’t reach Mattox by phone. About seven minutes after she was originally called upon to vote, Mattox’s muffled voice entered the meeting again and confirmed that she had indeed voted yes.
Mattox could hear everyone the whole time.