(Somerville, TN) Parents and concerned citizens packed the Fayette-Ware High School library Wednesday night, shouting outbursts against the interim superintendent, despite constant pounding of the gavel.
James Teague, who has been interim superintendent since July, was chosen to be the new superintendent during the meeting, with a four-year contract.
Many of the parents who oppose him have claimed they will boycott the school system by taking their children out of the classroom and putting them in churches, where volunteer teachers will teach them instead.
To select James Teague, the board had to suspend part of their policy, which stated that interim superintendents would not be eligible candidates in an official superintendent search process.
The board chairman told News Channel 3 that they conducted a search for an interim superintendent earlier this year, which cost $25,000.
With the district in financial straits, he said the board felt it would be too expensive to do another search. He also said he felt Teague has done a good job so far.
So by suspending that policy, Teague became eligible to become the new superintendent.
This process, along with a previous district attorney investigation involving Teague, had many people shouting in protest during the meeting.
Isaac Richmond, who greeted people coming into the parking lot, talked about Teague’s “false vouchers, reimbursement vouchers for trips, conferences and meetings that didn’t exist.”
In August of 2010 while Teague held a different district position, District Attorney Mike Dunavant wrote a letter to the Fayette County Schools attorney, stating:
“With regard to Mr. Teague, it seems clear that there is evidence of the possible felony offenses of official misconduct and theft over $1,000.”
But Teague was never charged.
Wednesday night, Teague said, “I have no comment on that. That’s a done deal.”
One outraged parent, Satrina Brown, said, “He needs to be handcuffed and towed out of here, because it’s not right.”
While Teague has never been proven to have mishandled funds, it is certain the school district is having financial trouble.
Andrea Staggs, a supporter of Teague’s, said she believes the problem was with the former people in charge, who “last year, decided to leave. Take everybody with them, and they wrote themselves bonus checks and left us with a dog gone debt scandal.”
Staggs did not know about the district attorney’s investigation, but said that Teague is known as an upstanding citizen.
“He’s done nothing but be the interim, and this is nothing but black vs white. And I don’t understand it,” she said.
The money problems are so serious that Teague’s first act as official superintendent was to cut nine teaching positions from the budget.
“I’m a teacher myself. It hurts me to have to do this,” Teague said.
When asked about how to patch the rift in the community and improve the system, he said, “We’re in horrible shape financially, we’ve got to correct that, we’ve got to maintain our level of teaching and learning to keep us on the right track.”
He hopes to keep teacher morale high and increase their pay as soon as possible.
Staggs supports the idea of giving Teague a chance for four years, but agrees something needs to change.
“The school system is flawed any way you look at it. And it needs to be rebuilt from the ground up, because they’re passing people just because they want to get them out of here,” she said.