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In wake of media clerk controversy, Decatur Superintendent changes central office


In wake of media clerk controversy, Decatur Superintendent changes central office

Superintendent David Dude
David Dude. Photo provided by City Schools of Decatur

David Dude. Photo provided by City Schools of Decatur

The controversy over the firing of a longtime Decatur High media clerk hinted at something more problematic going on behind the scenes at City Schools of Decatur.

Superintendent David Dude has said he may have been misled about the evidence that led up to his controversial decision to fire Susan Riley in February. She was placed on paid administrative leave a couple of days later and was officially reinstated on April 13 after weeks of controversy and a lengthy, costly investigation.

If there are any penalties or repercussions for the individual or individuals who allegedly misled the superintendent, they are not being disclosed. The exact cost of that investigation is unknown. Dude didn’t respond to a direct question about what the final bill will be for Jonathan Poole, an attorney with Strickland Brockington Lewis who was paid $235 an hour investigate the matter. CSD is still considering a records request from Decaturish.com for materials pertaining to that investigation.

Dude said in a telephone interview on Thursday that there will be no official written report in the Riley case.

He did explain on some of the changes taking place within CSD that resulted from the findings of that investigation.

In his formal statement about reinstating Riley, Dude wrote, “Several significant changes in district structure, process, and procedure will be made.”

Dude told Decaturish that Human Resources director David Adams will now report directly to him instead of Chief Operating Officer Noel Maloof.

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Was Maloof involved in hiring the HR director?

“The COO as the supervisor of the department ran the process, but I was involved in the final round of interviews as is pretty typical for administrative hires,” Dude said.

Was Adams someone Maloof recommended?

“It was a team decision of the second round team,” Dude said. “We came to consensus on the candidate all together.”

Is Maloof facing any disciplinary action as a result of the investigation into the Susan Riley case?

“I’m not going to go into any individual personnel situations, so I’m going to decline to answer that,” Dude said, the same answer he gave regarding any other employees that may have been disciplined based on the outcome of the investigation.

When Maloof took the COO job, he was leaving behind controversy at the High School where he served as principal for one year prior to being promoted by outgoing Superintendent Phyllis Edwards. It’s not clear whether the HR director reported to the COO prior to Maloof’s promotion to that job.

“I don’t know the history of the HR department placement,” Dude said. “When I got here HR reported to the COO and I’ve decided to have HR report to me.”

While Maloof was principal at the high school, some teachers filed grievances against him. Those grievances have been withheld by CSD on grounds that they are exempt from disclosure under the state Open Records Act because they are considered performance evaluation records. Decaturish has challenged that interpretation of the law after consulting with the state Attorney General’s Office, but CSD has so far not provided any additional justification for withholding this information.

Dude said one of the “significant changes in district structure, process, and procedure” made in response to the Riley investigation involved the grievance process.

He said he has decided to, “form a task force to look at the overall district grievance procedures to make sure that we have clear appropriate and robust procedures [for employees] to share their concerns.”

Did the grievances against Maloof play any role in what happened to Riley?

“I wasn’t here for that entire process of what’s happened in the past,” Dude said. “I’m not comfortable commenting on how far reaching that would be.”

One of the key issues surrounding Riley’s case was a promotion she was promised that had been approved by Edwards. While Riley has her old job back, she has not been promoted.

“I have directed HR to review our processes for reconsideration and reclassification and I’d like a more formal process so in the future if employees feel they need their job description reviewed for any reason we have a more formal process to handle that so we ensure it’s handled fairly for everyone,” Dude said.

One of the alleged reasons Riley was fired in the first place, according to her attorney, was because she was accused of, “Misappropriating school equipment by taking home an iPad that had been purchased for her use and was checked out to her.”

As a result of the investigation, Dude said, “I’ve asked the technology department to review best practices on technology use practices.”

The controversy has been a huge test for Dude, who started the job in November of last year.

Decaturish asked whether he had learned anything from the controversy surrounding Riley’s case.

“I’ll have to think about that. I’m not sure,” Dude said. “I’ve shared the organizational needs that I’ve reflected on considerably, what needs to happen. What I’ve learned personally, I’ll think about what I want to share there.”