Unfair hiring alleged at BOE meeting

Published 11:40 am Friday, July 22, 2011

Two citizens made allegations of unfair hiring practices against the Decatur County school system during the monthly Board of Education meeting Thursday night.

During the public participation portion of the meeting, Doris Cosby and Sandra Gordon made allegations that minority candidates for employment are not treated fairly by the school system.

Reading from a prepared statement, Gordon said, “The minority community has lost faith in this current administration and is requesting that the personnel director and the superintendent tender their resignations. Further, since this personnel director has been in place and this superintendent in Decatur County, no minorities have been hired and only one minority person has been partially promoted, this person was not even given a full promotion as job assignments were split.”

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Gordon continued,  “If the board will not conduct a thorough investigation, I am calling for a federal investigation to these current hiring practices.”

Cosby, a retired educator, claimed “minority applicants in Decatur County are being sent to neighboring counties to apply for work, but we are hiring Florida and Alabama educators.”

While offering no substantiation or evidence of the discriminatory practices, both presenters asked that the board produce records of recent hiring activities. Those records will be pulled together and presented as asked, according to Fred Rayfield, school system superintendent.

In response, Rayfield said, “I am convinced that we are doing everything the right way, in an appropriate manner to best serve our students.”

The discussion of the system’s hiring practices began during the work session, immediately before the meeting at which Cosby and Gordon spoke. In an apparent coordinated effort with Cosby and Gordon, board members Winston Rollins and Clarissa Kendrick questioned the process in which employment applications are evaluated and how personnel decisions are made.

The timing of personnel recommendations presented to the board for either approval or non-approval was a point of contention with Kendrick and Rollins. Kendrick also asked why the board was not presented with the completed employment applications for chosen candidates.

“I think we need to see the applications for any individual chosen by the superintendent for board approval,” said Kendrick.

Board member Bobby Barber responded, “I think we would be micro-managing if we start looking at applications and that is not in our job description. The only person that works for the board is the superintendent and everyone else works for the superintendent. When we start dealing with day-to-day activities, we start overstepping our bounds.”

In other business, the board voted 5-1 to extend Rayfield’s contract by one year after earlier performing an annual evaluation.

Rollins cast the lone no vote.

“I feel like (Rayfield) has done an excellent job, he’s earned the respect of the community, earned the respect of the teachers and the administrators. He is an exceptional person and doing an exceptional job,” board Chairman Sydney Cochran said.

Rollins declined comment on why he voted against the one-year extension of Rayfield’s contract.