The details | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

The details

Posted By on Wed, May 2, 2007 at 5:03 PM

The two-page list of charges against Brooks includes: --Violating board policy by upgrading the pay scale for the district's financial services and personal departments without board approval. Brooks said the changes were included in the 2005 administrative reorganization plan, which was approved by the board. -- Paying stipends to three employees -- his secretary, her husband and another clerical worker -- without board approval. Brooks said the stipends are for work done outside the contract day, and that stipends are not covered under the board policy that requires board authorization for pay scale changes. Brooks said his secretary, Beverly Griffin, gets $300 extra per month for work on board meetings and matters; Pam Neal gets $225 per month for work on the board's computerized agenda system, and Griffin's husband Robert has been paid overtime for a special project to set standard mileage distances for mileage reimbursement. --Ignoring repeated requests from Board President Katherine Mitchell for information about the reorganization plan (Mitchell was the lone vote against the plan at the time) and about deviations from the district's budget. Brooks contends that Mitchell got information about the reorganization over a year ago, pointing out that she commented on it at the March 2006 board meeting. He said the information Mitchell requested about the budget required a massive amount of work to compile and is ongoing. -- Refusing to reinstate employee Karen DeJarnette "immediately" after the board overruled Brooks' decision to fire her. Brooks responded that the official board action was simply that DeJarnette be reinstated, and that the "immediately" came afterward in a letter from Mitchell. The letter did not constitute a direction from the board, Brooks said, so he was not obligated to follow it. DeJarnette, director of the district's Planning, Research and Evaluation department, was suspended with pay at the time so delaying her return to work for a week after the board vote did not affect her financially, Brooks said. -- Making unspecified "disparaging comments" about Mitchell and other board members during a meeting with school principals in March and about black people in general while speaking to employees at Bale Elementary. Brooks said he made no such comments.   -- Making a "threatening statement" against Mitchell during a meeting with the district's chief financial officer earlier this year and encouraging the CFO to commit an act of violence against Mitchell. Brooks said he has never threatened any board members. -- "Continuously" threatening and harassing at least six principals "in an unprofessional manner" unrelated to improving their performance or the educational process. Brooks said principals don't report directly to him and he is not responsible for their performance evaluation, and denied threatening or harassing anyone. --Failing to improve district performance, as measured by the number of schools on the state's School Improvement List. The board's letter says there were 12 schools on the list when Brooks was hired in 2004, and there are 24 now. Brooks said those numbers are wrong: That 27 schools were on the improvement list in the fall of 2004, and the district itself was on alert status, and that the number fell to 22 the following year before going back up to 24 in 2006. He said that schools were more likely to wind up on the improvement list as testing expanded to addtional grades over the last several years. (It's not clear where Brooks' numbers come from. According to the state Department of Education web site, there were 12 Little Rock schools on the improvement list in 2004. The Democrat-Gazette has quoted a department official as saying that information is incorrect.)   Brooks said "certain individual members of the board" -- i.e., Mitchell -- are using the termination process to revisit matters that were approved in the past over their objections. "The majority of the board should not use my contract as an occasion to revise history or to undo actions taken with approval of the full Board of Directors," he wrote. He painted the conflict as one of reform vs. resistance to reform. "People who resist change have lined up against me," he wrote.


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