New Director of Schools Dr. DeAnna McClendon put ink to her two-year contract with the Monroe County Board of Education last week in a historic moment for the county.

McClendon is the first female and the first African-American director of schools in the history of the Monroe County School System.

Prior to the contract being signed on July 2, the School Board met in a short called meeting that afternoon with School Board Attorney Doris Matthews to clarify the wording of a clause in McClendon’s contract.

“I have listened to the audio (from the June 20 meeting) about a dozen times,” Matthews told the board. “When Sharin (Freeman) makes the motion, she says ‘criminal indictment or anything.’ When Sonya (Lynn) puts the motion to a vote, she says, ‘if anything arises from the Shelby County investigation.’ So, the contract I prepared says ‘criminal charges or any misconduct arises from the Shelby County investigation.’ Dr. McClendon’s attorney wants it, or he’s got the wording in there that says criminal charges. I just need some clarification from you as to what you meant by the motion and what I am supposed to put in the contract.”

“The way I meant it was anything from a misdemeanor to a felony,” clarified 3rd District’s Sharin Freeman, who made the original motion to add a clause to McClendon’s contract during the June 20 meeting. “I think that would be fair.”

“So, you’re just saying criminal charges,” noted Matthews.

Second District’s Marsha Standridge asked Matthews if listing it as “criminal charges” would include both felonies and misdemeanors, and Matthews said misdemeanors are still considered criminal charges so that wording would work.

Freeman made a motion to amend her former motion about the clause to the wording suggested by Matthews.

“I have that contract ready,” said Matthews. “I had both (versions) prepared. They’re, unfortunately, at the office. So, Dr. McClendon and Sonya will have to go with me to sign it.”

Third District’s Jo Cagle then addressed McClendon.

“I do want to say, it’s nothing against you,” Cagle said. “We’re just protecting our schools, citizens and taxpayers. You’d hate to have to buy somebody’s contract out if they were convicted of something. It’s nothing (against you). Please don’t take it that way. I think we’re just trying to protect our county.”

Second District’s Janie Harrill noted that McClendon’s lawyer had made the suggestion to add the clause, as well.

“I think to put our minds at ease,” she said.

“I think someone called him,” responded Matthews. “He had been asked to write this by someone on the board. I don’t know. But when I got it, it said, ‘I have been requested to.’”

“Wasn’t me,” Harrill vocalized before seconded Freeman’s motion to amend the wording of the clause.

In a roll call vote, the motion passed unanimously. First District’s Dewitt Upton was not present at the meeting.

“You all understand, I can’t change someone’s motion so it was not my call,” Matthews told the board on the reason for the called meeting.

While they were there, Standridge brought up another question.

“When we were talking to your attorney, he said he was fine with that medical examination part and that’s fine,” said Standridge. “But I’ve had two or three phone calls saying that was a violation of HIPAA laws, and I’ve talked to other people who said if you were fine with it then they’re fine with it.”

McClendon responded, saying the only thing her attorney suggested was that the findings be kept at the School Board attorney’s office or where human resource files are kept.

“In that medical examination part where it says it will be held with the chairman, we’ve never even requested that,” said Standridge. “But I think that verbiage ought to be changed to say ‘kept in the attorney’s office.’”

“I wouldn’t want to hold that,” replied Lynn, who is currently serving as chairwoman of the School Board.

“Since the chair changes every year, we need a stability place,” agreed 1st District’s Faye Green.

But others wondered why a medical examine was even necessary.

“Why do a medical examination?” questioned 2nd District’s Jason Miller. “Why is that even in there?”

“I think that’s pretty routine,” said Standridge.

Board secretary Sandra Blair asked if they were referring to the physical that is required to be submitted by all new employees of the Board of Education.

“Well, it says by board request,” replied Standridge. “Did Tim (Blankenship) have a physical?”

“When he was initially hired,” said Blair. “Everybody did.”

After that, the board members seemed satisfied that a physical would be good enough and no motion was made. With no other items on the agenda, the board adjourned.

The School Board will meet again on Thursday, July 11, in a budget workshop at 4 p.m., followed by a regular monthly meeting at 6:30 p.m. in the boardroom at Central Office.

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