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Special meeting to reaffirm vote on new leaders

The Brookhaven School District board of trustees scheduled a called meeting Thursday at noon and was expected to repeat a vote approving the district’s two newest principals.

     The called meeting comes after David Martin and Janee’ Harrison were approved as principals of Brookhaven High School and Brookhaven Elementary School, respectively, in a hasty series of moves by district leaders Wednesday morning.

     The board met in a regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday night, but Superintendent Dr. Lisa Karmacharya offered no recommendation about principal vacancies at BHS and BES.

     Wednesday morning, Karmacharya contacted board members by phone with recommendations for both vacancies, according to Karmacharya and board members.

     Karmacharya then took what she has since called a “poll vote” by phone among board members concerning the principals.

     Thursday’s meeting will take up the matter of approving the candidates again.

     “The meeting tomorrow will be to reaffirm in open session the poll vote on the principals,” said Tasha Douglas, secretary to the superintendent, Wednesday afternoon by phone.

     However, Karmacharya and board president Karen Braden described the Wednesday morning phone vote as an official and binding approval of Karmacharya’s recommended candidates. The superintendent denied at the time any further action would be needed. Notices of Thursday’s called meeting were released later that afternoon.

     The board did enter into an executive session Tuesday night to deal with a student matter. When asked Wednesday about the board’s phone vote, Karmacharya said board members voted Wednesday morning to “extend the executive session” and approve the recommendations she then made.

     Braden said Wednesday morning was the first time Karmacharya had recommended candidates to the board. Braden said as of the night before, the board had no idea Karmacharya was preparing to make a recommendation.

     Braden minimized the board’s role in the hiring process when describing it Wednesday.

     “We approve or disapprove, but she does the hiring,” Braden said, referring any further questions about the timing or procedure of the recommendations and approval to Karmacharya.

     Board members had not previously met Martin before his presentation Wednesday. Board members had not met Harrison as a job candidate, but were familiar with her as she is currently a district employee and the daughter of board member Willie “Doc” Harrison.

     Board members weren’t the only ones Karmacharya was trying to round up by phone Wednesday morning. She also contacted Martin and Harrison that morning to obtain their final commitments to take the jobs if offered, said Karmacharya and the new principals.

     The Wednesday morning hires come on the heels of complaints voiced at Tuesday night’s board meeting about the district’s hiring procedures.

     The Rev. Dr. Larry Jointer of St. James Missionary Baptist Church appeared before board members to indicate concern that qualified black candidates have been passed over in recent promotions, particularly at the Technical Center.

     “Brookhaven has moved forward. We have unity,” Jointer said Tuesday night. “From my perspective it appears we are being set back and divided.”

     The board’s meeting room was packed while Jointer spoke, with members of the public lined out the door and into a hallway. Before Jointer addressed the board, a district employee and a parent aired unrelated complaints to board members.

     When contacted Wednesday, Jointer reaffirmed his fears.

     “(Karmacharya’s) hiring people that don’t know anything about the community and there’s too many people qualified in the district that’s being passed over,” Jointer said.