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Decatur School Board set to offer acting superintendent one-year contract

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Decatur School Board set to offer acting superintendent one-year contract

Dr. Maggie Fehrman. Photo by Dean Hesse

Decatur, GA — The Decatur School Board at its May 11 meeting will consider awarding a one-year contract to the district’s acting superintendent, Dr. Maggie Fehrman.

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

The School Board meeting will begin at 5 p.m. with a closed-door executive session, followed by a budget hearing at 6:15 p.m. and the regular meeting at 6:30 p.m. There will be opportunities for public comment during the budget hearing and regular meeting. To sign up for public comments, click here.

Here are the access instructions for the budget hearing and regular meeting:

Public Hearing: Budget (Virtual) | 05/11/2021 – 06:15 p.m. — https://csdecatur.zoom.us/j/95614159391

Regular Monthly Meeting | 05/11/2021 – 06:30 p.m. https://csdecatur.zoom.us/s/95614159391 | Virtual Meeting | Join by phone: Dial:+1 646 558 8656 or +1 301 715 8592 | Webinar ID: 956 1415 9391

School Board members have faced criticism for deciding to stick with Fehrman instead of conducting a national search for Dude’s replacement. In a recent press release, the School Board defended its decision.

“Some in the community have asked whether the Board will conduct a national search for a Superintendent,” the press release from the School Board said. “Considering the immediate needs of our students and staff, we decided that rather than conducting a search at this time, CSD deserves to have a leader in place who already fully understands our most pressing issues. Particularly, our focus on ensuring the highest possible academic achievement for our students.

“As we considered how to proceed with leadership of the district, we knew Dr. Fehrman to be eminently qualified, and felt confident she could immediately hit the ground running to ensure a strong start to next school year. We believe it is in the best interest of our system and our children to enter into a one-year contract with Dr. Fehrman to lead us through the 2021-2022 school year, during which time we–and the board that will be elected later this year–can take stock and determine next steps for the future. This provides a seamless transition, certainty, and stability at this critical time, as Dr. Fehrman has already stepped into the role of Interim Superintendent.”

It has been a rocky time for CSD.

Before he left, Dude had been under fire for weeks over allegations that he took more vacation than he was allowed under his contract. The claims were first raised in the lawsuit filed by the district’s former human resources director.

That lawsuit is one of five federal lawsuits currently pending against the district, and Dude is named as a defendant in three of them.

Subsequent reporting by Decaturish revealed evidence to support the claims made in the lawsuit filed by the former human resources director 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 rescinded that contract and had planned to renegotiate it before deciding to part ways with Dude.

The School Board hired an independent investigator to look into the allegations about his use of vacation time, but it’s unclear if that investigation is concluded and whether its conclusions will be made public, something Decatur residents — including members of the Beacon Hill Black Alliance for Human Rights and the CSD Black Parent Alliance — have asked for.

For more information about that as well as links to our investigative stories about Dude, click here.

Fehrman has pledged to get CSD back on track.

“I am grateful to have the chance to offer stability in this role for as long as I am called upon to do so,” she said in a previous press release. “I am committed to being a leader who puts the well-being of our students first. We are focused on a strong finish to this school year and ensuring we are ready for the upcoming school year.”

Fehrman grew up on a dairy farm north of Pittsburgh, Pa. Her father immigrated to the United States from Poland in 1965 and met her mother at Northwestern University. She’s one of seven children. She said that “growing up on a farm embedded a strong work ethic that guides me to this day.”

“I started my career in 2001, teaching 7th-grade social studies at Summerour Middle School in Gwinnett County,” Fehrman said. “In 2005, I was promoted to assistant principal at Summerour. In 2009, I had the opportunity to open a new school, North Gwinnett Middle School, also as an assistant principal. In 2014, I became the principal of Bay Creek Middle school in Grayson before joining the City Schools of Decatur in 2018.”

She said her goal is to provide students with five full days of in-person instruction per week next school year.

“Also, based on guidance from our mitigation team, we plan to follow the 3Ws: wearing masks, washing hands, and waiting (i.e., social distancing),” Fehrman said. “We will cohort as much as possible and make use of rapid COVID testing.”

She added, “I am excited to join hands with you and take the next steps of this journey together.”

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