DALEVILLE - For weeks, mounting complaints from parents directed at the Daleville City Board of Education have caused a concerned public to demand a turnover of power back to the people.
“We need a change,” said Frank Sanders, a father of two in the Daleville City school system, at a city council meeting on April 16. “Put it to a vote. Let the city decide. An election would be awesome.”
Unlike other Wiregrass areas, the City of Daleville’s city council has the power to appoint all members of the board of education for five-year terms, for an unlimited number of terms.
The council’s meeting room was packed last Tuesday night with concerned parents and community members. During the meeting, the council approved the re-appointment of Angelia Filmore, the city clerk, to the school board.
One individual, retiring bus driver Billy Long, was on the agenda for the night to express to the council his concerns with the hiring practices of the school board and the council’s appointment process.
“Y’all are keeping the good ‘ole boy system going, putting Angelia Filmore right back on the school board,” he addressed the council. “And I noticed there’s some that didn’t even vote. Why are y’all not voting on it? Now, you’re here for the people of this town.”
Long passed along more accusatory statements against the council, accusing members of bowing down in favor of special interests.
“At an emergency school board meeting last week, there was no talking going on,” Billy Long said to the council among murmurs of agreement. “What are they discussing? What is the meeting about?”
Long’s concerns echoed the sentiments of many in attendance, including school board member Barbara Davis, who probed her fellow board members about their decision not to re-negotiate the sitting superintendent Dr. Diane Flournoy’s contract at the April 10 work session and board meeting.
“Do you think she’s been ineffective as a superintendent?” she asked during the meeting. “What are the grounds for not wanting to renegotiate a contract?”
Board member Debra Latremore said she wanted to withhold her comments because it is difficult to know what would be deemed personal or not personal.
“I can’t find the words,” Latremore said.
Davis, who has been on the board for two years, said she found that difficult to believe.
“I’m going to speak the truth. I know that there’s one individual on this board that controls the three of you,” Davis accused, among cheers of approval from a body of attendants. “Based on comments that he’s made to the superintendent telling her when she refuses to do what he wants her to do, and he says to her ‘I can count to three,’ meaning ‘I got three other board members that are gonna vote the way I want them to vote. I know that this person has supplied all kinds of pressure on her when she will not hire certain individuals and I’ve had conversation with a board member who has said to me, behind closed doors with the superintendent that this individual is the problem.”
Davis continued to indicate, without identifying the accused board member, that the individual mentioned intimidated other members.
The board attorney said the board was not required to make any comment that may address good name and character.
After a later request from the Dothan Eagle for a statement about the board’s silence and subsequent decision, Davis said: “Just as I had the right to speak my mind, my fellow board members had the right to remain silent. At this point, the board has spoken through its vote. It’s now my responsibility to respect that decision and focus on making sure that we have a strong leader for the children of this school system.”
Although Davis has moved on, the decision to not re-hire Dr. Flournoy has lit a fire under many Daleville city school system parents and individuals who want answers and transparency they believe will only come from change.
“I feel the school board members don’t have the students’ best interest,” said Cynthia Hobdy, a longtime parent of students in the Daleville city school system. “That decision that was made and not having any discussion about it and just making a decision, not wanting to re-negotiate her contract, and the parents are just clueless on why.”
Cynthia and her husband Torrey Hobdy have had children in the school system for close to 20 years and say recent events have piqued their worry over school board members, who they want to see removed from office and replaced with members who they say would be in touch with the community.
The Hobdys and other parents said they believe Dr. Flournoy has done an excellent job as superintendent and want answers they are not being given. They would like to see board members rotated off the school board, instead of serving over 30 years like member Ricky McLin, owner of McLin’s restaurant.
They would also like to see the removal of members who are involved in other areas of government, such as Filmore, to avoid the possibility of a conflict of interest.
Katheryne Horace, likewise, is a city council member and also employed by the school board as the director of special services.
“It’s like a buddy system,” Lewis Pollard, another Daleville parent said. “There needs to be some new blood in there to help stir some things up…”
Pollard added that involvement in two separate offices could create an environment to favor special interests, a problem many parents believe is rampant within the city school system.
Complaints have been expressed thoroughly at recent school board meetings and city council meetings and work sessions but the response from both bodies, aside from Davis’ statements, have been met with silence.
Attempts to get on the agenda for a couple of parents have been unsuccessful, as they say no one at the central office will answer the phone.
The silence from all sides has served to increase the tension between parents and the two governing bodies.
A special board meeting was called April 22, hours before, to approve the retirement of Long, who has been vocal about his concerns with the school board stemming from a co-worker’s unresolved sexual assault allegation from last year.
Last May, a female bus driver accused a bus mechanic of grabbing her on the rear on a school bus and subsequently touching himself in front of her. Superintendent Diane Flournoy reviewed the evidence and interviewed witnesses and stated in a letter, “Video evidence was viewed by Superintendent Diane Flournoy, who agreed in a letter to the victim obtained by the Daleville Sun-Courier, that the action was a violation of Daleville City Board of Education prohibition of harassment Board Policy 3.43.
Board policy states that sexual harassment by employees may include “Unwelcome or inappropriate physical contact such as patting, pinching, or unnecessary touching.”
The superintendent recommended the machanic’s termination supported by board member Barbara Davis, who made a motion to accept. Without a second, the motion failed. Board member Ricky McLin voted in favor of a non-consecutive unpaid leave, and the motion passed 4 to 1.
The video evidence has not been made available to the public.
The bus driver has since filed a complaint with the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) against the school board for allowing Adkins to remain an employee of the system. The suit is ongoing.
When asked why a meeting was called on short notice to discuss a single employee’s retirement set for June, an attorney for the board responded only that pursuant to the Open Meetings Act, it was legal to do so.
The Dothan Eagle has reached out to McLin, board chairman Steve Kirkland, and superintendent Flournoy for comment. All declined a response at this time.
The Eagle also reached out to city council members Horace, Alan Souders, Scott Moore, Bobby Hardrick, and Alicia Jo Reese, all of which did not respond to a request for comment.