PLEASANTVILLE _ Former school superintendent Clarence Alston may be back in as superintendent in the district.
In a 5-1 re-vote, the school board on Tuesday night approved him as the district’s new superintendent. However, the appointment could be overturned by the district’s state monitor Constance Bauer, who had previously said she believed he was not a good choice for the district.
Bauer said Tuesday night she would review the situation before making a final decision.
Alston previously served as interim superintendent, then superintendent in Pleasantville from 2006 through June 2009, when his contract was not renewed.
The school board voted to hire Alston again in May, but was only able to get four affirmative votes from the nine board members: James Barclay, Bernice Couch, Silvia Landron and Elysa Sanchez. Ethel Seymore and Sharnell Morgan voted no. Carla Thomas, Paul Moore and Lawrence “Tony” davenport are not eligible to vote because they have relatives who work in the district.
After a court challenge by Alston, Superior Judge Julio Mendez ruled that by law Alston needed a majority of the full board, or five votes, and not just a majority of those six members who were eligible to vote.
On Tuesday school board vice president Elysa Sanchez again made a motion to hire Alston. This time Ethel Seymore, who had previously voted against Alston, voted for him, saying while she still didn’t want him, the district needs a superintendent in place for the opening of school. Assistant superintendent Garnell Bailey has been serving as acting superintendent since interim superintendent Leonard Fitts’ term expired June 30.
An irate Sharnell Morgan, who voted “absolutely no” against Alston, got up to leave, but then returned and apologized for her outburst. She said she is concerned about a report involving actions taken by Alston when he was superintendent in the district in 2007. She said if she had known his appointment would come up again, she would have given copies to all board members.
The report Morgan referred to was a 2007 investigation by the law firm of DeCotis, Fitzpatrick, Cole and Wisler into the circumstances surrounding the hiring of certain insurance vendors by the school board. The report cites Alston’s alleged role in initially supporting insurance benefit programs supported by certain board members, which staff vehemently opposed.
Later in 2007 several current and former school board members were charged with taking money in exchange for insurance contracts as part of a federal investigation “Operation Broken Boards”. They included then school board President James Pressley, board member Rafael Velez, and former board members Jayson Adams, James McCormick, David Thomas and Maurice “Pete” Callaway. All were charged with attempted extortion or conspiracy to commit extortion and all did time in prison.
Carla Thomas, the current school board president, is the daughter of Pete Callaway. Craig and David Callaway are also regular attendees at school board meetings and have spoken out against decisions and board members with whom they disagree.
During the public portion of June’s board meeting, Craig Callaway said the state monitor has all the power in the district, and the board would never be able to choose a superintendent or other staff who have the best interests of Pleasantville.