Clarke school board divided on term limits

Clarke County School District Board of Education President Charles Worthy speaks to audience members during a ribbon cutting ceremony at the new Barnett Shoals Elementary School, Friday, November 11, 2016. (File/Staff)

The Clarke County Board of Education spent time on a tense discussion of its newly adopted term limits policy at a Thursday work session, but delayed a vote on whether to rescind the policy until next week’s regular voting meeting.

 

The board also discussed at length dismaying statistics on racial disparities in achievement and discipline that Superintendent Demond Means shared with them before the meeting, but that was also a non-voting item, and another one that the board will take up again next week.

The board passed the controversial term limits policy in August in a divided vote. Under the new policy, officers are limited to a single two-year term, which would prevent current board president Charles Worthy from succeeding himself. The school board elects its president from among its nine members. Worthy was elected to his first two-year term in 2006, and has been re-elected in each election since.

Two of the board’s four black members voted against the new term limit policy, and one of the three who voted for the term limit, Vernon Payne, said he would have opposed it but did not understand the policy change at the time. Ovita Thornton, the fourth African American board member, also voted in favor of the term limit policy.

All five white board members voted for the term limit policy.

Board members who favored the change said it would make for better government and develop leadership among other board members.

But last month, several of Athens’ most respected black leaders came to speak against the change, some questioning whether the vote was aimed at Worthy.

Fred Smith, co-chair of the Athens Area Black History Council, Rev. Abraham Mosley of Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church and Clarke County NAACP President Alvin Sheats, among others, asked the board to reverse the policy.

“This will not go away until you correct your mistake,” Smith warned.

Board members remained divided on the issue Thursday, but took no votes. Two of the board’s black members were absent — Worthy, because of a death in his family, and Payne, who is ill. One board member, John Knox, questioned whether Davis violated a board ethics policy in calling on the board to reconsider its vote; board members are supposed to support board actions once they’re voted in.

Others said the board should focus on improving the statistics on achievement and discipline Means brought to them.

Follow Lee Shearer at www.facebook.com/LeeShearerABH or https://twitter.com/LeeShearer.

 

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