BOE hopes to end court order

Published 10:34 pm Friday, August 20, 2010

The Decatur County Board of Education took action Thursday night with the hopes of ending 43 years of federal judicial supervision.

After meeting in a closed session with board attorney Bruce Kirbo Jr., the board voted, with board member Clarissa Kendrick being the only dissenting vote, to give Kirbo the authorization to file a consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice to end the school desegregation lawsuit initiated in May 1967.

The reorganization of the school system last year, resulting in the closure of Lillian E. Williams Elementary School, opening of the new high school, and the consolidation of grades five through eight, would be considered the final step for dismissal of the court order.

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According the consent decree, which is viewable in its entirety by logging on to, the school system has to submit a report to the Justice Department by Oct. 30 that includes the racial breakdown of the district’s students, the racial breakdown of the district’s faculty, a racial and grade-level breakdown of each of the three cheerleading squads at Bainbridge High School, and the school bus routes, including pick-up and drop-off times, for students that were zoned for Lillian E. Williams Elementary in 2008-2009.

Once the Department of Justice receives that report, the system “may move for a declaration of complete unitary status no sooner than 45 days after the United States receives the Oct. 30 report.”

View the Consent Decree (860K PDF)

Other business

In other business, the board passed two resolutions unanimously to give the district more financial flexibility. The first resolution will allow the system to exceed what the state has mandated as maximum class size.

“The State Board of Education in May issued a blanket class size waiver for emergency funding purposes because of the budget crisis and to deal with state funding cuts,” Superintendent Fred Rayfield said. “To date, 118 systems in the state have requested the waiver.”

The second resolution allows the system to request a waiver of the State Board of Education’s rule relative to minimum direct classroom expenditures. This rule calls for at least 65 percent of the system’s funds are spent on direct classroom instruction.

“This flexibility allows you to move money from category to category to cover some of the funding loss. We will be very, very close to the 65 percent if not right on it, but we would like to have that flexibility,” Rayfield said.

The board approved numerous personnel recommendations during the meeting, most notably naming Catherine Gossett as the system’s Special Education Director, and Carl Davis as assistant principal at Elcan-King Elementary School.