Decatur School Board places Superintendent David Dude on administrative leaveFILE PHOTO FROM 2016: City Schools of Decatur Superintendent Dr. David Dude (center) listens to people speak during a rally across from Decatur High School. Photo: Jonathan Phillips
This story has been updated.
Decatur, GA — The Decatur School Board on April 15 unanimously voted to place Superintendent David Dude on administrative leave pending the results of an investigation into his use of vacation days.
Assistant Superintendent Dr. Maggie Fehrman will be acting superintendent until the investigation is completed. The board made its decision after holding a closed-door meeting for nearly three hours to discuss Dude’s fate and discuss litigation against the district. There have been five lawsuits filed against City Schools of Decatur on Dude’s watch.
School Board Chair Tasha White said the move to put Dude on administrative leave “is in the best interest of all involved.”
The School Board adjourned the meeting without making any further comment. Dude did not appear to be present during the vote, which was live-streamed via Zoom.
“He will be on administrative leave with pay until further notice,” White said after the meeting.
It’s the latest twist in a story that’s been dragging on since January when the school district’s former human resources director filed a lawsuit against the district claiming Dude took more vacation than he was allowed under his contract. Subsequent reporting by Decaturish revealed evidence to support the claims made in that lawsuit and also revealed that Dude’s most recent contract renewal made it harder and more expensive for the School Board to fire him. The board has since rescinded that contract and had planned to renegotiate it. It’s unclear whether that process is on hold pending the outcome of this investigation.
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.”
Representatives of Beacon Hill confirmed the April 16 press conference is still happening and that the two groups would respond to the School Board’s decision to place Dude on leave.
The Georgia Professional Standards Commission, which certifies educators, on April 8 voted to remand complaint filed against Dude to the Decatur School Board, while it investigates the 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 the nature of the PSC 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 had said nothing publicly regarding the investigation or the superintendent’s contract. Likewise, the School Board has declined to answer numerous questions about the situation.
The April 15 meeting was the first time the board officially confirmed that an investigation is ongoing. It’s not known who is conducting the investigation.
The board’s decision comes after months of investigative stories by Decaturish.com about allegations raised by the school district’s former human resources director.
David Adams, the district’s former human resources director, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 due to COVID-19.
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.
Here are links to our previous stories about this issue:
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