By Kevin Edwards
BC Staff Writer
The Cleveland School District Board of Trustees was once again confronted by citizens at its meeting Monday.
Arlene Sanders, instructor of political science at Delta State University, returned as she promised last month and asked for the board to release Superintendent Dr. Otha Belcher from his duties.
“On the last month that I was here, I expressed some concerns,” Sanders said. “As a result, I come back asking you that Mr. Belcher be released as superintendent of the Cleveland public schools. Mr. Belcher has made some knee-jerk, visceral decisions not based upon intellect (and) not based upon factual information.”
Sanders was one of several citizens who appeared before the board in January criticizing Belcher for several personnel moves made at D.M. Smith Elementary School.
At that time, Sanders called Belcher the “pied piper” that she wanted to see follow those he had dismissed from the district.
Sanders called the moves, “visceral decisions made that impacts the livelihood of individuals.”
She also questioned the effectiveness of the investigation of the issue led by board attorney Arnold Luciano.
“Mrs. (Lucille) Holmes (a trustee), if there was an investigation then there are some key witnesses that were never, never questioned,” Sanders said. “And then, Mrs. Holmes, I ask that you take a look at what Arnold contends that he investigated that was sent to the state retroactively asking that employees’ licenses be suspended.
“On one note, Mr. Belcher asked for the suspension of an employee that wasn’t even licensed. That lets you know he doesn’t know the faculty or the staff.
“I ask you, Mrs. (Tonya) Short (trustee), to take a look with a third eye at the information that was presented to you all and then come to a conclusion. Mr. Belcher has a problem with the truth. Mr. Belcher has a problem making rational decisions. It has occurred over and over. “
And I ask you Mr. (George) Evans (trustee) if you were to take a vote of confidence or no confidence, you will find that the personnel in the Cleveland public school district, more than 90 percent are unhappy. The morale is low. I ask you to do that.”
The board did not respond to Sanders’ comments.
Parent Alaina Raper followed Sanders with issues regarding her children who attend Parks Elementary, saying they appear fearful of going to school.
“It’s to the point where I have one child locking herself in her bedroom and we’ve had to take her kicking and screaming into the school,” Raper said. “She’s terrified of the school. We’ve brought it up to the principal. There’s nothing they can do. We need to know why children are scared to come to that school.
“I’ve actually had more than one parent tell me their child is going through the same thing. These children have also not been on a field trip. They’ve looked at those four walls in their school.”
Raper also took the opportunity to criticize teacher conduct.
“Why are we letting our teachers wear blue jeans when our kids aren’t allowed even one day a week to wear blue jeans? They’re wearing them every day, T-shirts and blue jeans. To me, that’s completely unacceptable. When my mom was a teacher in this district at her school, they were not allowed to wear blue jeans until Fridays.
“Our kids are wearing uniforms five days a week. There’s got to be some equality there. You’re holding your kids to one standard but you’re letting your faculty and staff dress another way.”
Raper said she had brought her concerns to the principal, but they were not addressed.
“Before we get knee deep in personnel issues and your private business with your children, you might want to meet with (the superintendent),” said Trustee Todd Fuller. “That’s where if you don’t think they’re doing what they need to do, the next step is to make an appointment so you can explain to him because he’ll be able to sort through it all and at least get you some answers and figure out if there’s anything we can do and what it is we can do.”