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Decatur School Board hires new superintendent, discusses COVID-19 mitigation

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Decatur School Board hires new superintendent, discusses COVID-19 mitigation

Dr. Maggie Fehrman. Photo by Dean Hesse

This story has been updated. 

Decatur, GA — The City Schools of Decatur has a new superintendent. Dr. Maggie Fehrman was officially appointed to the post at the May 11 Board of Education meeting.

“As I’ve said before, I’m just honored and humbled to have this opportunity to help lead our district through this turbulent time,” Fehrman said.

To see her contract, here.

Her salary will be $190,000 for one year. If she completes the full year, she gets a $25,000 retention payment. She gets a $1,000 monthly expense allowance. She will receive 10 days of personal leave and is considered a 225 day employee.

Her contract says, “At the termination or expiration of this Agreement, school system will pay superintendent for any personal leave days that she has not used at the rate of $844.44 per day. For avoidance of doubt, this payment for unused personal leave days cannot exceed $8,444.40.”

Dude made $219,000, plus vacation pay-outs and bonuses. Dude was able to cash out up to 30 days of the 45 vacation days he gets each year, according to his 2017 contract. Records provided by CSD show that Dude cashed out more than $100,000 worth of vacation days from 2015 to 2021 when he left the district, money he received in addition to his salary and bonuses. He also tracked his own vacation days.

Fehrman’s contract makes it clear that she will be responsible for tracking her days in the district’s payroll system.

“Superintendent shall record the personal leave days that she uses in the school system’s records system in accordance with the school system’s then current policies,” her contract says.

Fehrman has been the acting superintendent since former Superintendent David Dude was placed on administrative leave in April. The school district announced Dude’s departure on April 27. His departure came after months of investigative stories by Decaturish.com that examined allegations raised by the school district’s former human resources director.

During the meeting, Fehrman outlined the COVID-19 mitigation strategies the school district will take for the upcoming school year. The district strives to follow suit with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. City Schools of Decatur will continue to monitor the CDC guidance over the summer.

Masks will be required for all individuals while indoors and while outdoors when closer than six feet apart. Students will not have to wear masks if they are three years old and younger. But everyone four years old and up will have to wear a mask.

Children ages 12 through 18, can now be vaccinated, although, CSD cannot require that students get vaccinated.

“That’s just not something that I feel that we can move forward with,” Fehrman said. “It creates a lot of issues that I don’t think are appropriate to get into even though, I’ll just say me as an individual, would strongly encourage people to talk to their healthcare provider about getting the vaccine and if it’s right for them, encouraging them to get that.”

The schools will continue to follow guidance on hand washing and social distancing and will keep the school and bus cleaning protocols in place.

Fehrman met with stakeholders while creating the mitigation strategies and one piece of feedback she got was making sure people understand when they should stay home.

“If you are showing signs of COVID, do not come to school. Do not come to the building,” Fehrman said. “If they are staff members, talk to your immediate supervisor. If you’re a student or you’re a parent, monitor those symptoms for your children and keep them home they’re showing signs of COVID-19.”

CSD will do its best to practice social distancing and maintain at least three feet between students in classrooms, which follows the CDC’s recommendations for schools. But Fehrman admitted that it’s difficult to social distance in schools, particularly as more students return to the classrooms.

“I cannot guarantee that we’re going to have a guaranteed three feet between each student, particularly at our lower elementary schools where students sit at tables,” Fehrman said.

Individual desks can be easily spread out in the middle and high schools. The district will try to add tables and spread students out, but it’s not a guaranteed mitigation strategy, Fehrman added.

Lunch was another big topic of discussion, Fehrman said, and CSD will encourage people to eat outside if they can. They will also encourage parents to send students with a towel or yoga mat to sit on.

CSD has asked the principals to work with their school teams to develop plans for eating lunch indoors.

The recommendation from the mitigation strategy team is that when people are actively eating they don’t have to wear a mask but if students are going to sit and talk with their friends at lunch they will need to wear a mask.

Staff will adhere to six feet of distance between students during lunch. In order to do contact tracing, the district is recommending schools assign seats or tables during lunch.

The schools plan to cohort students as much as they possibly can but they don’t want to limit any in-person services due to cohorting, Fehrman said.

Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction Kristy Beam gave an update on the Decatur Virtual Academy.

Registration for the Decatur Virtual Academy closed at the end of April and 87 students are signed up — 28 will be virtual all year and 59 expressed their intent to begin the school virtually but may return in person eventually. The district plans to move forward with planning for the virtual academy.

“The majority are due to COVID and plan to return in person when they deem it safe,” Beam said. “Those numbers are also on par with the percentages of students that other local districts are seeing for virtual learning as well.”

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