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Education & Career Dev.

Aug. 7 - COMMENTARY: Je suis “That Woman”

Category: Education, Colleges & Career

 By Lou Phelps, Publisher, Savannah Business Journal

 August 7, 2015 – Where does a Journalist/Editor/Publisher even start to react and report about  the professionalism of a Superintendent of a public school system who publicly makes the statement, “I am done with that woman,” when speaking about the president of the Chatham County Board of Education, as reported by the Savannah Morning News this week.

We could call and ask if he has a clarification.  Would he like to comment, further?  Was it reported in error, or out of context?

We could call up every other member of the Board of Education and ask if they would like to comment on the insulting, anti-feminist comment by the individual they hired who should lead by example,  reflect the values of this county, and understand how his comment may have been received by the female team members of SCCPSS.

I could share other statements and comments, allegedly made by Dr. Thomas Lockamy, Jr.  which other women in the administration, system employees, vendors or women from the public say they have heard him say.  I did not hear them personally, so I will not.

What I will focus on, instead, is the unprofessional way that Dr. Lockamy is working with his new school board president, and how he is handling legitimate questions being asked by Board President Jolene Bryne, the media and parents.  

I once WAS the Jolene Byrne of my community.  I was elected to the Marshfield, MA school board back in the late 80’s, and during my term, was elected by my peers as their Chairman – the board president. From my first day in office, I had a million questions about the policies of the system, about the budget that we approved and were responsible for, and about how the school board was operating with its Superintendent and his chosen administrative leaders. 

We had some great executives on that administrative team, but I was not a fan of the Superintendent, the record will show. Information that led to my concerns came from inside the system, from other community leaders and from my own business acumen. Employees, building principals and administrators were coming to me with information as an outlet for their frustration.  There are many sources of information that lead to questions.

Jolene Byrne is also new, in office only since January, and asking a lot of questions.  She is not micro-managing day-to-day instructional decisions of the administration. She is questioning some board policies, and asking about the budget, purchasing processes and system results.

And, she is learning that there appears to be a need for an improvement in transparency for parents and the taxpaying public. That is her fiduciary responsibility, and why she was elected.

Some of what she is learning has led to MORE questions and concerns, but when she asks she is running into resistance, including from some of the other board members. Because, in fact, some of her questions reflect on some of them.  For example: 

  • Why weren’t other board members more concerned about bus SAFETY?

  • Why didn’t they sufficiently fund bus fleet maintenance in the operating budget, and why are they not concerned that Lockamy didn't give them the Nov 2014 fleet audit?

  • Why didn’t they insure adequate administrative overview of a $!7 million contract with a firm that was clearly not performing?

  • Why aren’t they demanding more information on Dr. Lockamy’s plan to replace David Fields, SCCPSS’s Chief Executive Officer who retired as of June 30, not announced until May?

  • Why are they willing for Dr. Lockamy to publish one set of docs for the public to see, such as this week’s Reading and Math Proficiency results presentation, but give the board another version of docs that he terms “Executive Summaries”?  Jolene Bryne had to direct that the full literacy report be posted to the website. (It is now available there.)

  • Why are some of the African American members demanding - behind the scenes - that a contractor ranked 5th by what appears to have been a professional Evaluation Process of bidders for the new Juliette Low school, be given the contract over four other firms? They have now blocked that bid award twice.

  • WHY can’t the system’s public relations team provide timely information to the media, and be pro-active, such as a press release at the end of the first day of school on how bus service had gone with the new bus contractor, recognizing the community’s concerns?

I could go on and on.

Fields had replaced Otis Brock after his untimely death.   “Operations” appears to be one of the areas where there have been real problems, certainly with management of First Student.  Lockamy informed the board in May that his plan was to make Vanessa Miller-Kaigler Chief of Facilities Maintenance (raise from $116,000 to $126,000); and district spokesman Kurt Hetager is now Interim Executive Director of Communications AND Administrative Services (whatever the latter means) with a raise from $60,879 to $86,626.

Hetager has a degree in Communications, and worked for a local TV station before being hired to head up the Communications Dept, after a TV anchor Lockamy had hired quit after about 10 months on the job, just as the school year was starting in 2010.   Do the board members believe Hetager has the credentials in education and business to be respected by teachers and administrators with their BS, MS and PHD’s in education and business administration?  Is the bench that thin now? 

Je suis ‘THAT WOMAN’  - we all are - and I ask for a more professional approach by the Superintendent in working with Jolene Byrne and this community.

A new school year is a good time for a new approach.

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4.5 out of 5 stars

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    • 112 Andrea Drive, Tybee Island, GA 31328, USA
      Rated 4.5 out of 5 stars

      Pertinent questions that deserve real answers. If upper management - appointed and elected - can't treat each other with civility and good manners - how can we lead our children by example? I certainly want to know about qualifications and where all the money is being diverted. Yes, Ma'am

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