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Decatur School Board plans executive session; PSC complaint filed against superintendent

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Decatur School Board plans executive session; PSC complaint filed against superintendent

FILE PHOTO USED FOR ILLUSTRATION PURPOSES: The City Schools of Decatur Board of Education. Top row, left to right: former Superintendent David Dude and School Board Chair Lewis Jones. Bottom row, left to right: School board members James Herndon, Tasha White (Vice Chair), Heather Tell and Jana Johnson-Davis. Image obtained via City Schools of Decatur

Decatur, GA — The Decatur School Board on March 23 will have a closed-door executive session to discuss legal and personnel issues.

Board members are likely to discuss allegations that Superintendent David Dude was frequently absent but did not record his absences as vacations. The School Board plans to hire an independent investigator to look into those allegations. The board also has rescinded Dude’s contract and plans to renegotiate it.

The independent investigator has not been announced and it’s not clear if the investigator’s report will be made public, something that the Beacon Hill Black Alliance for Human Rights and the Black Parent Alliance have requested. The School Board has also not responded to questions about whether Dude will be placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation and whether the board will wait for the investigation to conclude before granting Dude a new contract.

The contract that the board rescinded, which would’ve gone into effect July 1, appeared to make firing Dude for cause more difficult and made it more expensive to fire him for the board’s convenience.

The board has a list of two dozen questions from Decaturish regarding the allegations and Dude’s recently rescinded contract. The board said it plans to respond following Tuesday’s executive session. The board’s ability to respond is hampered by a federal lawsuit against the district. David Adams, the school district’s former human resources officer, alleges in the lawsuit that Dude pushed him and former finance Director Susan Hurst out of the district after they raised questions about his time away from the office. They allege he violated of the Code of Ethics for Government Service. Misuse and misreporting of public funds would be a violation of the Georgia Professional Code of Ethics for Educators, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit says Dude is required to work 255 days per academic year. However, upon reviewing his contracts, Decaturish was unable to find any language specifying the number of days Dude is required to work or what days he’s entitled to take off without recording it as vacation time. When the School Board announced that it was hiring an independent investigator, the board said Dude does not have to use vacation days during times when the district is closed, like Thanksgiving break. However, the board hasn’t said whether those breaks include the summer months. Evidence shows that during the summer of 2019, Dude was out of the office from June 11 through July 16, 2019.

An auto-responder email sent from Dude’s email account on June 11, 2019 says Dude would return on Tuesday, July 16, 2019. The Temporary Delegation of Authority documents for the summer of 2019 shows that Dude appointed a temporary superintendent from June 14 to July 6, 2019 and from July 7 through July 15, 2019.

According to central office work calendars provided by the district, central office was open June 11 through June 24, 2019 and July 8 through July 11, 2019. According to the calendar, central offices were closed June 25 through July 5, 2019.

But according to vacation requests he entered into the school district’s payroll system, Dude’s only vacation days in the summer of 2019 were on July 12 and July 15.

Public records show Dude received $100,000 in additional compensation for cashing out the vacation days he said he didn’t use. He’s allowed to cash out 30 of his unused days, according to his current contract. Salary schedules posted on the school district’s website show other employees of central office work 225 days a year. The formula for Dude’s vacation pay-outs is based on prevailing daily rate for 251 days.

In a potentially related development, the Georgia Professional Standards Commission, the organization that certifies educators, confirmed it has received a complaint against Dude. There was no information about the allegations in the complaint or who filed it. A spokesperson for the PSC said, “No decision has been made regarding whether or not to conduct an investigation.” The PSC could discuss whether to move forward with the complaint at its meeting next month.

The Decatur school district currently faces five federal lawsuits, including the one filed by Adams.

Here is a summary of the other lawsuits filed against the school district:

– Cheryl Nahmias, formerly a Decatur High Instructional Coach/International Baccalaureate Coordinator, filed a lawsuit in federal court on Dec. 23 alleging racial discrimination and retaliation. Her son made a racist video which became public in May 2020. She sued the school district after she was demoted and reassigned to a job within CSD’s central office. She claims the demotion was the culmination of a months’ long campaign of retaliation against her for sticking up for her son’s rights and for years of whistleblowing activities within the district.

– The mother of a girl allegedly assaulted in an Oakhurst Elementary bathroom is suing the district, alleging the district violated her Title IX rights.  The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights in 2020 concluded its investigation prompted by an allegation that a gender-fluid boy assaulted the girl in an Oakhurst Elementary school bathroom. The investigation, which began in 2018, could not substantiate that an assault ever occurred. It did, however, note that City Schools of Decatur did not follow the proper investigative procedures under Title IX, the federal law that protects students from discrimination.

– A different Title IX lawsuit against City Schools of Decatur alleges the principals at Renfroe Middle School failed to prevent a sexual assault. The victim’s mother, who is not identified in the complaint, alleges that the student accused of assaulting her daughter had sexually assaulted a different student on campus during school hours two months before her daughter’s assault. The lawsuit says, “Despite having actual knowledge of the earlier sexual assault, Defendants failed to take appropriate remedial and/or preventative steps to prevent [the suspect] from continuing further sexual assaults and groping of other students at RMS, including [the victim], or to otherwise take appropriate steps as mandated by law for the safety and well-being of other RMS students, including but not limited to [the victim].”

–  A former City Schools of Decatur custodian is suing the district in federal court, alleging the district didn’t pay him overtime wages he was owed. His attorney, David Cheng, said his client is seeking $2,400. The custodian, Shutoku Shia, filed the lawsuit in November.

That 5:30 p.m. executive session meeting will be followed by a work session at 7 p.m. The work session, which is public, will focus on parent and family engagement in City Schools of Decatur and a report on operations and information services. That meeting is open to the public and will be held at Wilson School Support Center PLC, 125 Electric Avenue, Decatur, GA 30030. To access the meeting virtually, click here.

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