GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. - The last speaker during the public comment period of the Buford City Schools Board of Education meeting Monday asked those present to join hands and bow their heads in prayer, and it appeared the meeting had been adjourned.
But it hadn’t.
As the crowd from the heated meeting milled about and out, board members quietly retired to make an important decision -- naming a retired Buford educator as an interim superintendent to replace the man who had just resigned.
Several hundred people had showed up to speak their mind about remarks allegedly made by former Superintendent Geye Hamby, in which he repeatedly used a racial slur in talking about African-Americans.
Mary Ingram, a paraprofessional who said she was fired for speaking out about the marginalization of Black History Month, had filed a lawsuit that revealed the recorded remarks.
As the sweat-soaked attendees left Monday’s sweltering standing room-only meeting, nobody asked about the remaining items on the agenda.
While standing around speaking with board chairman Phillip Beard and other board members, an AJC reporter was told he had to leave.
The board members then went to a back room.
When they emerged, an interim superintendent had been named. However, nobody was left to hear the announcement that the former assistant superintendent, Joy Davis, had come out of retirement to become the new interim superintendent.
“Mr. Beard followed the proper procedures,” she said Wednesday. “It’s not his fault that nobody was there to hear it.”
Indeed, by the time the board emerged, there were only Gwinnett County police officers and a few school district personnel present. The media and the concerned residents had been long gone.
The agenda that had been posted on the Central Office door made no mention of going into executive session. There was, however, an item labeled “Personnel Recommendations.”
Earlier in the meeting, Beard alluded to “other business” that had to be taken care of. But he never brought the meeting back to order after the prayer.
Gregory Jay, legal counsel for the board, said he heard Beard trying to get people settled so they could finish the meeting.
“He called for a motion to go into executive session and I’m not sure who moved and seconded, but it was all by the book,” he said.
Jay added that after the board discussed a few personnel matters, they voted to appoint Davis as interim superintendent.
“When they came back out to formally vote and adjourn the meeting, there were only a few people still around," Jay said.
On Wednesday night, Channel 2 Action News received this letter that was sent to parents from the Buford City Schools Board of Education:
Dear Parents, Students, and Staff,
As the Buford City Schools Board of Education, we would like to apologize for the actions of our former superintendent. His language in no way reflects the sentiments of the Board of Education or School District. We recognize the hurt, anger and frustration the events of last week caused our students, parents and community. Racism is not condoned or acceptable in any manner.
We wish to thank each of you who may have attended the August Board of Education meeting on Monday, August 27, 2018. Your voices were heard and appreciated. We pledge to you that communication between the community, school system and board of education will greatly increase and we will be as transparent as possible to provide you with current and timely information. An email account has been established to allow you the opportunity to share your ideas with the members of the Board of Education. The address is email@example.com and is also located on the Buford
City Schools website Board of Education page. Additionally, we have already begun to make a concerted effort to create a plan to improve relationships between and among the many cultural groups represented within our schools. Clearly, one of the strengths of our system and community is our diversity. Plans to garner community input and engagement will be forthcoming.
Immediately after the Executive Session of the August Board of Education meeting, Joy Davis was named as Interim Superintendent. Prior to retirement, Mrs. Davis served as Buford Academy Principal and Assistant Superintendent. Plans for the new Superintendent search are being developed and will be shared within the upcoming weeks.
Parent and community participation in our schools will continue to be integral as our community moves forward in providing the best education and environment for our students.
Buford City Schools Board of Education
Phillip Beard, Pat Pirkle, Daren Perkins, Bruce Fricks, Beth Lancaster
This article was written by Arlinda Smith Broady, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
© 2018 Cox Media Group.