July 3, 2003 — The internally torn Board of Education elected Harry Daniel as its permanent chair on Wednesday in a vote that was surprising only for the crossover of one member who had opposed the March vote that ousted Jorge Galiber from the chairmanship.
Daniel, who as vice chair became acting chair upon Galiber's removal, and fellow board members Terrence D. Joseph, Keith Richards, Linda Thomas and Yvonne Williams-Henry voted in favor of making Daniel permanent chair on Wednesday.
Recent board appointee Liston Davis and veteran members Galiber and Malik Sekou voted in opposition. Claudette Petersen, who sided with Joseph and Sekou in opposing Galiber's ouster in March at a meeting not attended by Galiber, missed Wednesday's meeting because of being off-island.
At the March meeting, the fifth board member voting to remove Galiber was Gerald E. Hodge Sr., who died unexpectedly in April. That left a pro-Daniel faction of four and a pro-Galiber faction also of four. Last month Davis, a former Education commissioner, filled the vacancy created by Hodge's death.
On Wednesday, Davis sided with the pro-Galiber faction, but Joseph switched to the pro-Daniel camp, thus assuring it a majority of five once again on the nine-member board.
"I feel uncomfortable having elections while this thing is up in the air," Davis said, referring to Galiber's lawsuit against the board over his ouster as chair.
Richards countered: "We should move on and continue to do the board's business. Let's move on. Let's have an election."
The board majority also elected Joseph as vice chair and Richards as secretary. This, too, was a coup of sorts, as Galiber, Joseph, Petersen and Sekou had voted at an April 30 meeting to make Joseph vice chair and Sekou secretary — a vote denounced as null and void by Daniel afterward because the four did not constitute a majority.
On March 13, five board members — Daniel, then-secretary Hodge, Richards, Thomas and Williams-Henry — voted to remove Galiber as chair. Petersen, Joseph and Sekou opposed the move. Galiber had sent notice that he could not attend the meeting because of a conflict. (See "School board splits over vote to oust chair".)
At that meeting, the board's legal counsel, Nandi Sekou, whose hiring Galiber had announced at a press conference a week earlier, said a two-thirds majority vote was necessary to "reorganize the board" — the purpose of the meeting, according to a release issued in advance of the session. That would have meant six votes. The five rejected her view.
Thomas said after that meeting that the reason the five wanted Galiber removed was that "on numerous occasions he has spoken for us, though the board has asked [him] time after time not to do so. He cannot speak for the whole board."
On April 30, Daniel called a special meeting of the board to deal with planned public hearings on its draft teacher certification document. At that meeting, Galiber, Joseph, Petersen and Malik Sekou moved to elect officers; the other three present — Daniel, Richards and Thomas — then walked out, leaving a non-majority. The four proceeded nonetheless to elect Joseph as vice chair and Sekou as secretary. To Daniel's objection later that the vote was taken without a quorum, Malik Sekou countered that the quorum had been established when the other three were present. (See "School board strife overshadows certification".)
Since March, the two factions have been mired in internal bickering, Galiber has sued the board, the board has hired a different lawyer to represent it in the case, and much of the board's business has been transacted in executive session, on several occasions at special meetings. Evadney Hodge, who sided with the majority, and Nandi Sekou have had squabbles that led to police twice being called to the Board of Education offices on St. Thomas, and in June the board suspended attorney Sekou.
Just hours before Wednesday's Board of Education meeting, board members were at the Legislature Building on St. Thomas for a hearing on board operations before the Senate Education and Youth Committee. Daniel, Richards and Evadney Hodge all sought to reassure the senators that despite internal differences, the board is carrying out its mandates. (See "Members: School board functional despite feuds.)
In response to Wednesday's election outcome at the school board meeting, Davis commented that Ray Charles could see that it had been pre-arranged.
However, much of the pre-arranged business on the agenda was not dealt with at the meeting, including approval of the minutes of three meetings held in June, committee reports, correspondence issues and a "complaint" lodged by Petersen. The board decided to postpone acting on Petersen's complaint because she was not present; the nature of the complaint was not made clear.
One of the board's more pressing issues is the federal No Child Left Behind Act. There are compliance issues to deal with, including teacher certification. No progress was made on this issue at the meeting.
The board did, however, set some business on the agenda in motion. The new executive committee is to review discussions that took place at a March 24 meeting on staff conflicts and board's relationship with its executive director and report back to the board on Aug. 2.
The executive committee also is to deal with the transition to a new executive director. Evadney Hodge's retirement, announced in mid-June, is to be effective Monday. With the date imminent and no search for a successor having begun, the board discussed the possibility of having Hodge stay on for a short time. She said she would consider doing so.
Richards suggested extending Hodge's tenure for 90 days and having her handle many tasks relating to the transition. The executive committee is to meet with Hodge to discuss the matter.
Thomas commented at one point, "There are so much ends to tie up."
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