Court to hear Randolph County school controversy

By Len Kiese - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - Controversy continues within a South Georgia school system. Randolph County parents, students and teachers continue to wonder whether school will start as scheduled in a few weeks.

The school board has been plagued with in-fighting all year.  There's been everything from efforts to oust the Superintendent and Chairman to lawsuits alleging slander. The newest fight has the board split after a June 30th meeting.

One side, which includes the Superintendent and Chairman, says next year's budget was not passed at the last meeting which means school can't go on. But the others disagree and filed a court petition Tuesday to get those school bells to ring.

School is out for summer but some parents in Randolph County are concerned kids won't be in class come Fall. "I just hope everything gets straightened out," said Annie Bass.

There's plenty of straightening out to do.  Problems with the Randolph County school system continue to mount.  The latest comes after a June 30th school board meeting caught on amateur video and placed on YouTube.

In the video, Board Chairman Henry Cook insists other board members don't have the right to add items to the agenda without full consent of the board.

"And I'm not giving consent," said Cook.

Three board members later go on to approve items including the budget and leave the meeting. Cook later announced those votes were not valid and therefore they're without a budget.  Because of it, he said there would be no school and teachers would not be paid.

"The budget was passed at that June 30th meeting with the majority of three," said board member Dymple McDonald.

"It has created a huge furor over and above what was already a pretty bad situation in Randolph County," said school board attorney Tommy Coleman.

Coleman says they're now trying to rectify the bad. Board members James Mock, Dymple McDonald and Don Smith have now filed a writ of mandamus against School Superintendent Bobby Jenkins.

"We're prepared to go to court to require the Superintendent to open schools as originally planned," said Coleman.

A court hearing will be held before a judge to determine what the status of schools will be. "We'll present evidence as to why schools should be open according to what was passed with that budget and according to what the law says. And Mr. Jenkins can come and argue why schools shouldn't be open if he chooses to do so," said Coleman.

"School needs to start and we need to get everything back in order and get school going again," said McDonald.

McDonald has no doubt as to what will happen. "School is going to start August 3rd," said McDonald.

In the midst of the confusion, everyone agrees it's the students who are paying. "We get together and we can get this thing straightened out and get these children back in school because they need to be back in school," said Bass. No one thought it would take a court to decide when exactly that would be.

It hasn't been determined when that court hearing will take place. Henry Cook told WALB News 10 by phone that he was out of town but hopes this chaos is all resolved at the next board meeting July 21st. Bobby Jenkins could not be reached for comment.

An outside judge likely will be brought in to hear the case. The three school board members also filed motions for contempt against Superintendent Jenkins and Henry Cook for violating court orders on agenda policies.

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