The Bibb County Board of Education on Thursday night voted 7-1 to implement a plan that will bring salary increases to more than 1,000 classified employees.
The move wasn’t without its share of controversy, however. During the committee meeting Thursday, board member Tom Hudson, the lone dissenting vote, said he disapproved of the salary study that called for the pay increases, claiming the process wasn’t “transparent” because interim Superintendent Steve Smith already approved some increases for the staff in the central office. Hudson said he was in favor in general of employees getting raises.
Smith countered that he had to make certain salary adjustments back in July to avoid potential litigation based on the perception of discrimination, in that some employees were making more money than others in similar jobs.
Though he never mentioned his predecessor by name, Smith said many of the problems arose during the tenure of former Superintendent Romain Dallemand, who resigned in February 2013. After Hudson criticized Smith for approving the other raises without going to the board, Smith noted that the superintendent’s position affords him certain latitudes, especially to ward off potential litigation. Smith noted that those changes Hudson referred to only amounted to about $21,000 out of the $1.3 million budgeted for raises.
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“I don’t understand how he can complain about overspending about ($21,000) and sit there while my predecessor abused board policy nine times without (Hudson) questioning it,” Smith said after the committee meetings. “I was creating fairness and equity in the school system so that everybody was treated fairly.”
Hudson, who did mention Dallemand by name, which historically isn’t done during board meetings, asked if Dallemand had been incriminated by any of his actions.
Board President Sue Sipe and school system attorney Randy Howard both warned Hudson to cease his line of questions.
“You’re out of order,” Sipe told Hudson.
The state’s Professional Standards Commission last week revoked Dallemand’s teaching certificate, in part because of his circumvention of the board on spending issues.
Hudson said that Smith used an “antiquated method” to award those particular raises and should have waited to have them approved by the board.
“He was picking numbers out of the air,” Hudson said after the meeting. “The process was flawed.”
Hudson said that certain positions in certain departments, such as accounting, got higher raises than other departments. However, district officials noted Thursday and in previous presentations that raises were made in proportion to the salary disparity throughout the system.
Earlier this year, the board approved $1.3 million to bring classified employees -- such as secretaries, bus drivers and custodial staff, for example -- in line with their counterparts in Chatham and Muscogee counties. Those school systems are similar in size and demographics to Bibb County.
The district is scheduled to inform employees Nov. 21 about the changes to their salaries. Most of the employees will get some sort of raise, while those in positions being paid higher than the study indicates they should be will see their salaries frozen. No one will experience a salary cut, officials said.
The raises will go into effect Dec. 19, with increases being retroactive to July 1.
The board also unanimously approved a proposal by board member Wanda West to create a clear appeals process for employees who have a grievance about their salary.
In other board business Thursday, the district recognized campus police officer John K. Wilson, a 10-year veteran of the school system. Wilson was named Officer of the Year for Valor by the Georgia Peace Officer Association after he instituted a lockdown at Westside High School when an individual tried to enter with a gun. Wilson was able to talk the individual into surrendering his weapon.
Also Thursday, the board said it will meet with superintendent candidates Oct. 25 at a hotel near Hartsfield-Jackson Airport in Atlanta. The board also will meet candidates Oct. 29 in Macon. Smith will retire as interim superintendent Dec. 31. The board hasn’t confirmed how many candidates it will interview.
In other business, Smith recommended the district start putting together a new E-SPLOST for an election date in March. The current E-SPLOST is set to expire in December 2015, and the only election dates available next year are in March and November.
To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.