The division on the school board was visible tonight when a majority failed to come together to hold a special meeting.
Trustees were to debate and possibly name an interim superintendent tonight, but the nine-member board needed five trustees to make a quorum. Only four showed up.
The four trustees who asked for the meeting were visibly upset saying their colleagues intentionally sabotaged the meeting to avoid naming Deputy Superintendent Walter Dansby as interim, some of them indicating race was a factor.
“It’s shameful,” trustee Carlos Vasquez said. “Shame on my colleagues for not taking the time to come to do what’s important for the future of our district.”
Vasquez and trustees Juan Rangel, T.A. Sims and Ann Sutherland pushed for the meeting with the goal of naming Dansby interim in the wake of superintendent Melody Johnson announcing her plans to resign effective Sept. 19. Vasquez said Sutherland asked for the interim superintendent item to be placed on last Tuesday’s meeting. When it was not, the four requested the special meeting. Board policy requires at least four trustees to call a special meeting.
Board president Ray Dickerson said earlier this week that the meeting wasn’t necessary because there was no need for an interim. He said Tuesday that he hoped the board could name a permanent replacement before her departure and if not, an interim could be named later.
About 50 attended the meeting scheduled before the Memorial Day holiday weekend. Many in attendance also voiced frustration at the cancellation. Some had signed up to speak at the meeting, and Sims wanted to allow them to speak anyway. But after consulting with the school district's attorney, Rangel said he wanted to be cautious on having the appearance of a meeting, which would be against state law without a quorum.
Vasquez and Sims said they worried the other trustees aren't supporting Dansby because he is black. Four of the five trustees who did not show up (Dickerson, Judy Needham, Norm Robbins and Tobi Jackson) are white and one (Christene Moss) is black.
Robbins said he had a long-standing commitment for his wife and had asked for the meeting to be rescheduled. “This was something I could not reschedule, and I felt I should honor,” Robbins said. “I found it courious that we were rushing to do this meeting on the Memorial Day weekened. I don’t know what the rush was.”