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Black parents call for superintendent’s suspension; surprise School Board meeting announced

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Black parents call for superintendent’s suspension; surprise School Board meeting announced

FILE PHOTO USED FOR ILLUSTRATION PURPOSES: The City Schools of Decatur Board of Education. Top row, left to right: 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
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This story has been updated. 

Decatur, GA — Black parents of City Schools of Decatur students are ratcheting up the pressure on the School Board to suspend Superintendent David Dude while the board investigates allegations related to the superintendent’s use of vacation days.

Meanwhile, the School Board has called a surprise executive session for April 15 at 6 p.m. to discuss legal and personnel issues. The meeting was announced on Wednesday afternoon, April 14. It is not yet known if the board will take any action following the meeting, but it is highly likely they will be discussing the allegations against Dude and matters related to the five federal lawsuits filed against the district on his watch.

The Beacon Hill Black Alliance for Human Rights and the Black Parents Alliance on Wednesday, April 14, announced a press conference at 1 p.m. on Friday, April 16 to discuss their call for Dude’s suspension.

Carmen Sulton of the Black Parents Alliance said, “Employees from the City Schools of Decatur have come to us and expressed their concerns about the capability for a truly independent investigation to take place while Dr. Dude is still at the helm. They have shared their concerns to school board members, and no action has been taken. It appears that the school board is allowing a double standard by not suspending the superintendent the same way other employees have been suspended while under investigation.”

The Georgia Professional Standards Commission, which certifies educators, on April 8 voted to remand complaint filed against Dude to the Decatur School Board, which has said it plans to investigate allegations that Superintendent Dude was frequently absent but did not record his absences as vacations. Public records show that since he became superintendent in 2015, Dude received $100,000 in additional compensation for cashing out the vacation days he said he didn’t use. While nature of the complaint is not clear, it likely stems from the allegations regarding his use of vacation time.

The School Board on March 12 made the announcement that it would be rescinding Dude’s contract and the board would be hiring an independent investigator. A month later, the School Board has done nothing publicly regarding the investigation or the superintendent’s contract. Likewise, the School Board has declined to answer numerous questions about the situation.

But the Black parents groups say an investigation is currently ongoing, though the board has not taken any official action or made any announcements about it. Another source Decaturish spoke to who is familiar with the situation also confirmed that the investigation is underway. It is not clear who is conducting the investigation and whether the investigator is a neutral fact-finder or someone who currently works for the School Board.

“Dr. Dude is currently under investigation for ‘cashing in’ vacation days that were not being tracked in the district’s reporting system,” the groups said in a press release. “In addition, whistle blowers have come forward and reported an environment of intimidation and retaliation, which calls into concern the ability for a fair and impartial investigation to be conducted while he is present.”

The latest developments follow a months-long investigation by Decaturish.com into allegations raised by the school district’s former human resources director in one of the five federal lawsuits filed against the district.

David Adams, the school district’s former human resources officer, alleges in a 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 subsequent investigation by Decaturish has uncovered evidence to support the claims that Dude was frequently absent without recording those absences as vacation days.

Some CSD employees have alleged that he is often unreachable during the summer months. Evidence shows that during the summer of 2019, Dude was out of the office from June 11 through July 16, 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.

His predecessor, Phyllis Edwards, said she was expected to work during the summer. She was expected to use her vacation days if she took time off during those breaks.

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.

Dude has been responsible for documenting his own vacation since he was hired in 2015, but he input those vacation days into the district’s payroll system on Jan. 27 of this year in response to a records request from Decaturish.

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.

In addition, Decaturish discovered that when the board in September 2020 approved the now-rescinded contract, Dude’s PSC certification had lapsed because it had expired in June. Dude didn’t renew it until October. Dude’s contract makes it clear that maintaining this certification is a condition of Dude’s employment with the district.

A City Schools of Decatur spokesperson said the COVID-19 pandemic was the reason Dude’s certification lapsed. However, PSC did not cancel any reporting periods.

Records provided by the district show that Dude was notified via email in April 2020 that his certification was about to expire.

“Although we are under COVID-19 shelter in place in restrictions, GaPSC recommends that we continue to process renewal applications,” an April 22, 2020 email from a district HR employee to Dude says. “Under their guidance, we will complete criminal backgrounds when COVID-19 restrictions are lifted and resume business as normal.”

The email said the paperwork needed to be completed and returned to Staff Support Director Adena Walker by May 15, 2020.

A group of longtime Decatur residents fed up with the current Decatur School Board and superintendent have started a new petition calling for more transparency and accountability.

It’s the second petition circulating following revelations about Superintendent David Dude’s use of vacation time. The first petition garnered 192 signatures. The new petition has 185. The first petition, started by resident Susan Camp, is calling for Dude to be placed on administrative leave while the school board investigates the allegations. The second petition calls for more accountability from the School Board, particularly as the board is weighing a tax increase.

Fox 5 is one of the few local media outlets besides Decaturish to cover this story. Other local outlets, notably the Atlanta Journal Constitution which routinely covers the School Board, haven’t published any articles about the situation since Adams filed his lawsuit. The AJC did not cover the news that the board was investigating the allegations and had rescinded Dude’s contract. That news was covered by Patch.com and the Champion Newspaper.

In response to the Fox 5 story about the community petitions, the School District sent a statement to the TV station that was purportedly endorsed by the School Board. It read, in part, “A recent petition, based on inaccurate reporting in a local blog, calls for changes that are not based in factual information.”

It is unclear whether the district was responding to Decaturish or another local blog or news website. In response, Decaturish has again invited the School Board to refute any of our findings and has promised to issue a correction if anything we’ve published is found to be untrue. Since our initial story ran in February, the School Board and CSD haven’t issued a single request for correction or retraction of our articles.

In addition, the School Board has for weeks been in receipt of two dozen questions about this topic, including questions about the number of days the School Board expects Dude to work and whether he can take off during the summer without using vacation days. So far, the School Board has declined to respond to those questions while saying it intends to provide answers at some unspecified future date. The board initially said it would answer the questions in March, but in its most recent statement said it would not answer those questions until the end of April.

Here’s the full statement from the Beacon Hill Black Alliance for Human Rights and the Black Parents Alliance.

Decatur, GA – Beacon Hill Black Alliance for Human Rights and the Black Parents Alliance, two black led entities in Decatur, GA, are organizing a press conference for parents and community organizations who are calling for the Superintendent of the City Schools of Decatur to be suspended during his current investigation.

This press conference scheduled for Friday, April 16, at 1p.m. will be in front of the Elizabeth Wilson School Support Center at 125 Electric Avenue, Decatur, Ga 30030. Parents, community organizations, and Decatur citizens will be in attendance calling for Dr. Dude to immediately be suspended.

Dr. Dude is currently under investigation for “cashing in” vacation days that were not being tracked in the district’s reporting system. In addition, whistle blowers have come forward and reported an environment of intimidation and retaliation, which calls into concern the ability for a fair and impartial investigation to be conducted while he is present. Carmen Sulton of the Black Parents Alliance states, “Employees from the City Schools of Decatur have come to us and expressed their concerns about the capability for a truly independent investigation to take place while Dr. Dude is still at the helm. They have shared their concerns to school board members, and no action has been taken. It appears that the school board is allowing a double standard by not suspending the Superintendent the same way other employees have been suspended while under investigation.”

Beacon Hill Black Alliance for Human Rights and the Black Parents Alliance wish to see ethical leadership guiding the academic direction of children in the City Schools of Decatur district.

Here are links to our previous stories about this issue:

Lawsuit alleges Decatur superintendent took more vacations than his contract allowed

A Super Deal (Part 1): Decatur School Board gave superintendent money for down payment on a house

A Super Deal (Part 2): Superintendent documented his own vacation, got $100k for unused days

A Super Deal (Part 3): Records show gaps in superintendent’s schedule; sources say he’s often gone

New evidence shows Decatur superintendent took time off but didn’t use vacation days

Decatur superintendent’s new contract could make him harder to fire

As civic leaders remain silent on allegations against Decatur superintendent, parents seek answers

Beacon Hill, BPA demand transparency from School Board on superintendent investigation

Longtime Decatur residents fed up with School Board, superintendent start new petition

City Schools of Decatur denies allegations made in two federal lawsuits

Decatur superintendent’s PSC certification lapsed in June, was renewed and backdated in October

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

Decatur School Board will hire independent investigator and rescind superintendent’s contract

PSC remands complaint against superintendent to Decatur School Board

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