Sup’t. DeCotis’s parting shot tags BoE’s Todd


Strife on the Fayette County Board of Education (FCBOE) has been growing the past couple of years, with some of those on both sides of a given argument demonstrably vocalizing their opinion. Now as a parting shot

to the school system just days before his retirement, Superintendent John DeCotis, in effect, told the teacher on one of them.

DeCotis called and emails were sent to AdvancED Georgia SACS CASI (Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Council on Accreditation and School Improvement) in which DeCotis presented concerns about the behavior of school board members and a possible ethics violation by “one of the board members.”

The state organization took no action on the complaints by DeCotis except to say it was informally watching the Fayette board for any further such activities.

State Director Mike Bryans in a July 8 letter to Acting Superintendent Fred Oliver noted a phone call by DeCotis and a series of emails from the school system on the issues.

The only copies of emails released by the school system to The Citizen included a copy of the FCBOE Ethics Policy, the FCBOE Operating Procedures, “… an interview from one of our board members and candidate, Dr. Bob Todd,” newspaper articles “concerning Dr. Todd,” and a letter to the editor authored by Todd.

What the emails from the school system relating to newspaper articles “concerning Dr. Todd” did not note in their brief explanation to Bryans was that in most of the newspaper articles submitted it was Todd and board members Janet Smola and Terri Smith that were all cited as having exchanged words.

“After reading the emails and accompanying attachments, we are aware of the strife on the Board. It is the responsibility of the district to monitor compliance (with organization standards). Moreover, it is the responsibility of the district to notify our office of Standard violations and address violations by implementing a corrective action plan that results in resolution,” Bryans said July 8.

“Let me also emphasize the importance of the Board following its policies,” Bryans continued. “Evidence that one or more Board members are not acting in accord with the Board’s own policies could be a violation of Standards … Our office will not take action at this time. However, should we receive a formal complaint, we will respond pursuant to AdvancED Policy VI.”

Chairman Terri Smith and board member Janet Smola in recent months, both at a school board meeting and in print, had stated that they might find it necessary to file an ethics complaint about board member Bob Todd after his statements in another publication.

Todd on Monday reiterated his position on his earlier statements and his re-election last week, noting that he does not consider expressing his opinion on matters of school system finances and academics a violation of ethics.

“The election is over. We need to move on to issues that have substance and are related to the economic and academic survival of this school system,” Todd said. “I would hope all parties affiliated with the recent election are willing to do the same.”

DeCotis at a school board meeting in May admonished the board to avoid the charges and counter charges on alleged ethics violations that had occurred between Smith, Todd and Smola in board meetings in prior weeks. DeCotis said he wanted to remind all five board members that the school system has an existing ethics policy and wanted to reiterate the provisions contained in it.

“I wanted to remind the board that a policy is in place and I hope they can adhere to it,” DeCotis said, adding, “especially since we have a superintendent’s search under way.”

If the time ever comes for SACS CASI to investigate the actions and behavior of board members, that organization will likely have its work cut out for it. Some that regularly attend school board meetings can recall a number of times during the past two or more years when Smith, Todd and Smola, on varying occasions, initiated dialogue or responded to comments by others that indicated very different policy positions among board members. Podcasts of the meetings are located on the school system’s website at

For better or worse, those comments by the board usually amount to a difference of opinion or a difference of approach in dealing with some of the issues facing the school system.

It is perhaps not unexpected that such comments and responses by FCBOE members often come when a split vote occurs. Those votes are characteristically 3-2, with Smith, Smola and board member Lee Wright on one side of the issue and Todd and board member Marion Key on the other.

Todd will be returning for another four-year term on the board as of Jan. 1, 2011. Lee Wright will be going off at the end of this year, having declined to seek reelection. A Republican and a Democrat will vie for Wright’s post in November. Smola and Smith must face the voters again in 2012.