Any superintendent of schools has a boss. That boss, in most cases in Georgia’s 180 school systems, is the board of education. A school board’s most important functions are to set policy and make sure the superintendent adheres to those policies. That’s why the Bibb County Board of Education is complicit in the latest news that former Superintendent Romain Dallemand spent millions of dollars not approved by the board, much of it in the technology area.
That money was spent on technology is no surprise. Technology consultants were brought in and a report given to the full board. Bibb County was woefully behind the technology eight-ball with smart boards sitting in the warehouse without power supplies essential to making them work. None of the schools had adequate technology infrastructure and many of the computers sat dormant. There was much discussion in open board meetings about how to fix the problem and how to pay for the fixes.
Throughout Dallemand’s tortured tenure there were various charges filed with the Professional Standards Commission. The PSC sent them back to the board and told them it was their job to act if they deemed action was necessary. Apparently, board members were not up to their due diligence responsibilities. There are only three present board members who weren’t on the board then.
There was a spate of purchase orders issued in mid-December 2012 shortly after the board had evaluated Dallemand’s performance and offered him an extension to his contract. By the end of February 2013, they voted to buy out his contract for $350,000 plus a number of benefits. One of those benefits could haunt the district if it decides to take legal action, something it is contemplating doing. The board would have to pay Dallemand’s legal expenses, plus its own. Bibb County District Attorney David Cooke warned of a long process. “We don’t know if any laws were violated or if this is a violation of policies and procedures,” he said.
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Interim Superintendent Steve Smith indicated that action has been taken by the board to close loopholes that may have allowed the violations to occur. He believes an investigation would further harm the system that’s in search mode for a new superintendent. Board member Ella Carter agrees that finding a new superintendent should be the board’s top priority, while board member Lynn Farmer wants to know how it happened.
To say Dallemand’s tenure in Bibb County was divisive would be an understatement. The board should put aside emotion and dispassionately debate whether an investigation is necessary and to what end.
If the board decides to act, it should be prepared to reopen that sordid chapter and risk much of the good work Smith and members of the board have fostered to heal those wounds since Dallemand’s departure.