For the first time in a decade, Bibb County schools Superintendent Sharon Patterson took a different seat during Thursday’s school board meeting.
She sat in the audience.
Patterson, 65, who earlier this week reached a settlement with the school board to leave her position at the end of the month, did not take her usual seat at the board table next to school board President Gary Bechtel.
Instead, Patterson sat near the back of the room, watching and occasionally wiping her eyes and nose with a tissue.
At about 5 p.m. Thursday, the board at its committee meeting voted to appoint Deputy Superintendent Sylvia McGee as acting superintendent. But even before that vote, McGee was taking notes from Patterson’s old seat and was involved in the meeting.
“The board made it clear (Monday that Patterson) has no more duties,” Bechtel said. “(McGee) was de facto superintendent as of Monday, but we made it official” Thursday.
Meanwhile, there was some question about whether Patterson had gotten the message.
Earlier this week, Patterson said in an interview she still had work left as superintendent, including meetings with principals and signing employees’ paychecks, until her last day in the central office Feb. 26.
Bechtel, though, said she had been “relieved of her superintendent duties.”
When media called to ask the Bibb County school system about possible Bibb testing irregularities after a state study was released Wednesday, Patterson responded to questions from the media, although Bechtel had asked McGee to.
“I think there might have been a misunderstanding” on Patterson’s part, Bechtel said.
At the start of Thursday’s committee meeting when The Telegraph asked Patterson if the shift to make McGee acting superintendent had already happened, Patterson didn’t directly address the question.
“I will be here until the end of the month,” Patterson said.
McGee likely will lead the system through the end of the current school year or until another long-term interim superintendent can be found, Bechtel said.
Bechtel said the board is considering giving McGee a pay increase to take on the additional duties. She now makes about $117,000 a year, he said.
“She is currently the deputy and second in charge, and she was a logical choice because of her (33 years) experience and knowledge of the district,” he said. “We didn’t consider anyone else.”
Monday, the school board reached a settlement to terminate Patterson’s contract 17 months early.
The board agreed to pay her legal expenses related to a state ethics probe and give her a lump sum of $198,000, roughly equal to a year of her pay.
Patterson said being the subject of a state ethics investigation for allegedly failing to report principal misconduct has created too much turmoil between her and the school board.
She said the situation has been a distraction for the school system, and she wants to focus on clearing her name.
McGee and assistant superintendent Mack Bullard also are being investigated by the Georgia Professional Standards Commission for the same charges after school board members Bechtel and Lynn Farmer filed an ethics complaint in September.
Bechtel said McGee would be at the helm until a longer-term interim superintendent can be found, and the board would wait to see the outcome of the state investigation.
McGee said Thursday she’s overwhelmed but hopes to be the bridge from one outgoing superintendent to the future one.
To contact writer Julie Hubbard, call 744-4331.