Protestors_CCSD_Jan9

Protestors wanted answers for Superintendent Demond Means' departure from Clarke County School District at a CCSD Board of Education meeting on Jan. 9. (Photo/Erin Schilling)

One reason Alvin Sheats came to the Clarke County School District executive meeting Thursday afternoon— He wants answers.

Sheats along with about 15 other residents brought signs to the H.T. Edwards Teaching and Learning Center at 4 p.m. to protest the school board’s decision to place former superintendent Demond Means on administrative leave.

“Dr. Means has already proven his administration can turn our low education attainment around,” Sheats said. “It’s time that we recognize true God-given leadership ability for our educational program here at Clarke County.”

Means ended his two-and-a-half-years with CCSD in December after a 5-3 vote by the board on Dec. 9, though the reasons for the separation aren’t entirely clear. Because Means’ contract runs through the 2021-22 school year, the district will have to pay him $500,000 if he’s fired without a cause, Flagpole reported.

For Sheats, transparency is a major issue. He said the board members should explain their decisions after the Dec. 9 executive meeting. The members did not tell the public why they placed Means on leave.

While the board was away, William Breeding Jr., who created the “We Care About ‘ALL of The Students in CCSD’” Facebook group, conducted an impromptu meeting of his own regarding the open District 2 seat.

Former board member Frances Berry resigned in November because of “personal reasons,” and the deadline to apply for the position is Jan. 10 at 4 p.m. The board will vote on the seat next week after public input at the Jan. 16 meeting.

Mary Bagby gave a particularly passionate speech about her dedication to the people of District 2, which encompasses East Athens.

She's lived in the area for 40 years, has regularly attended school board meetings and promised to be a voice for the district.

"I'm not going to be a ‘yes man’ or ‘yes woman,’" Bagby told the group. "I am going to be about what's right."

When the board returned from its closed-door meeting two hours later, District 1 member Greg Davis made an immediate motion to return to the executive session after the board's public work session to continue the conversation about the superintendent.

During the board's subsequent work session, interim superintendent Xernona Thomas took the place at the end of the table.

The members worked through the agenda, including nominating members for president and vice president of the board, which will be voted on next meeting. Members also hashed out committees for the upcoming year.

The board also announced the accreditation agency Cognia, formerly AdvancedED and Measured Progress, will review the district for possible violations of accreditation standards on Jan. 26-28.

According to a letter from Cognia to Means in mid-December, the review will investigate allegations that “conduct of some members of the Board of Education is interfering with the Board’s ability to function responsibly and effectively as a Board and is impeding the autonomy of the district leadership.”

CCSD will have to pay for the more than $4,200 cost associated with the review, according to the letter.

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