Two members of the Barbour County Board of Education tried to bring about change for the board during the Nov. 14 meeting but were stopped when not enough votes were cast for a new president and vice president for the county school board.
Nominations for the board president and vice president were made as the meeting got underway with board member Jimmie Fryer nominating Jaqueline Davis for the position of board president. Davis nominated Shirley Johnson for the position. Johnson received three votes as she, Davis, and Ruby Jackson voted for her. Davis received votes from Fryer and Johnnie Helms.
A nomination made by Fryer for Ruby Jackson for the position of vice president only received two votes when as show of hands was called for with Fryer and Helms voting for Jackson. Davis was nominated by Johnson and voted in with three votes made by Davis, Johnson and Jackson.
As the meeting progressed to the approval of the check register accountability report for September and October, and the bank reconciliation for October, Fryer called for a discussion as each item was brought up but was repeatedly stopped as he tried to ask his questions. Superintendent Matthew Alexander refused to answer questions posed by Fryer as he asked about funds, checks that had been written, and other financial matters concerning the county school system.
Alexander repeatedly stated that if board members had questions about the reports they were to email the questions to him and he would answer them in a timely manner. When Fryer asked what a timely manner was, he was spoken over by the board president as she moved the meeting on to the next item on the agenda.
After all items on the agenda involving a vote were completed, Fryer left the meeting before the Superintendent’s Report and the meeting was officially adjourned.
As a result of the way the Nov. 14 meeting was handled, Fryer penned the following letter, titled “A Right to Know, to media in the county addressing his concerns.
“After the Nov. 14 Barbour County School Board Meeting, I feel compelled to write this. The constituents of Barbour County School have the right to know how and why taxpayer’s money is being spent. Any questionable financial transactions should be clarified before board members are asked to vote on taking any actions to approve.
“During the meeting, Superintendent Matthew Alexander asked board members to utilize an illogical practice in approving financial items on the agenda. He asked board members to approve his recommendations on financial items and if any board member had any questions to email him after the meeting. In other words, vote now and ask questions later. Superintendent Alexander is asking board members to not be fiscally responsible with public finds and to blindly trust him.
Likewise, Superintendent Alexander also stated that he would start making financial reports available to the board a month in the rears. He says this is how many school districts conduct business, I think not, but then again, those school districts that do are probably ones with financial woes. These financial practices do not promote transparency but spawn distrust and create suspicion of things not being above reproach.
“Newly re-elected Board President Shirley Johnson made a statement to the effect that the only thing I talk about is money when I come to board meetings. In totality, that is not true. I have shown up at several meetings asking about the results of a state compliance monitoring conducted back in Oct./Nov. 2018 by the Alabama State Department of Education. As of today’s date, there still has not been an official report from the superintendent to the board and public. Likewise, on Oct. 22 I was engaged in a very prolific and professional dialogue with Dr. Roberson, the Barbour County Intermediate School Principal, in regards to instruction at BCIS in how to improve students’ achievement until President Johnson abruptly interrupted the dialog by saying my time was up.
“Therefore, with all due respect Madam President, I will continue to ask about the finance of the Barbour County Schools to ensure students’ needs are being met, opportunities are being provided to help our students to reach their potential and to ensure the financial stability of the system to help secure its existence for future students.
“Furthermore, after the public grand standing of Superintendent Alexander on Dec. 10, 2018, where he publicly insinuated the possibility of some financial wrong doing of past administrations and that an audit for FY2018 was started the same week. Isn’t it ironic though the audit for FY2018 commenced in Dec. 2018, and it is now Nov. 2019 and still the FY2018 audit report has not been completed; interesting to note, in FY2018 Barbour County Schools had one superintendent of records, and that was Superintendent Matthew Alexander. Approve now and ask questions later…I think not! The people have a right to know! If my questions related to public matters are not going to be allowed to be asked, nor answered, during public board meetings, I will ask my questions through public editorials because the people have the right to know!”
The letter is signed Jimmie Fryer, Board Member, District 2.