How will McCoy’s Resignation Affect April Board Election?

By Bob Lindsey

The surprise announcement last week that Ferguson-Florissant superintendent Art McCoy was resigning could make the upcoming school board races even more interesting. One of the first orders of business for the new board when its seated next month will be the search for a new superintendent.

McCoy and the school board issued a joint signed  statement  on March 12  that McCoy was resigning effect March 14. It read: “It is mutually agreed and understood that full resolution of these matters is in the best interests of the Ferguson-Florissant School District. To those who have framed the issues as racially motivated, the parties are satisfied that each acted in good faith and with the best interests of the Ferguson-Florissant School District in mind.”

At  last Wednesday night’s council meeting there were a few comments about the resignation from board members. Board member Brian Scott Ebert was the only one who voted against approving the agreement. Speaking at the meeting, he said he objected to just a “four line” statement issued by the board. “I believe the students, district and community deserve more than that, “he said and, “I’m deeply sorry” there was not more from the board. Board president Paul Morris said, by law, all “personnel records are secret and can’t be revealed.”

Outgoing board member Chris Martinez, who is not seeking reelection next month, “counted 11 sentences” attributed to McCoy on the matter that appeared on St. Louis Public Radio. He said he learned about McCoy’s comments to St. Louis Public Radio after “we got a signed mutual agreement.” He wished the former superintendent “great things” in his next position.  McCoy is in the running for presidency at Harris-Stowe State University in St. Louis.

McCoy had been on paid suspension since last November. Parents and others had rallied around the superintendent late last year, which prompted the filing of  a slate of three African-American candidates called “Grade A For Change” to run for the school board. They initially were concerned about the removal of a black superintendent by a school board with no African-American representation in a district with a majority of black students.  Now, if any  of them is elected, they will be involved in seeking McCoy’s replacement.

A hearing was to be held on Wednesday, March 12 and Thursday, March 13 to allow McCoy to answer to charges from the board on the suspension.  The hearing was planned for March 12 at 5:30 p.m., and was to be continued at the meeting on March 13.  The hearing would have been closed to the public and  media. With McCoy resigning before the hearing could be held, the school board cannot make the charges against McCoy public, even if it planned to do so.

The most recent development was a letter from a school district attorney dated last November to the U.S. Department of Education stating that McCoy  had given his password credentials to a former school board member after he left the school board. The board and its attorneys recognized this as a “major infraction” and terminated the access. Cindy Ormsby, an attorney for the board, then sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Education “humbly self-reporting”  the violation of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Ac t (FERPA).

In the letter to the U.S. DOE,  Ormsby wrote that this access  by the former board member “continued  until the board became aware of the situation on Nov. 13, 2013 at which time the access was terminated. No other non-district employee has such access to records.” However, there were no communications to the state from the district that any student records or assessment had been changed by anyone.

Still to be determined is what impact these latest events will have on the district school board races on Tuesday, Aug. 8. The slate of three candidates (F. Willis Johnson, Jr., Donna Paulette-Thurman and James A. Savala) who call themselves “Grade A for Change” had supported the superintendent.

They are among the eight candidates for the school board election on Tuesday, April 8. Other candidates include incumbent board president Paul T. Morris and director Rob Chabot. The other three candidates are LaWanda Wallace, Kimberley A. Benz and Larry Thomas. (Bios on all the candidates will appear in the April 3rd issue of The Independent News.)



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