Less than 24 hours after the Pleasanville school board voted to suspend the district’s superintendent, the state-appointed monitor overturned the decision.
Monitor James Riehman said in a release Wednesday that the decisions to suspend Garnell Bailey, appoint an interim superintendent and conduct an investigation that would require hiring outside counsel were “detrimental to the district’s continued efforts to the proper fiscal management of the district.”
He added that the Rice notice given to Bailey “may not have been done in accordance with proper procedure.”
As a result, the superintendent is reinstated, and Riehman’s statement is officially recognized as part of the minutes from the meeting Tuesday night.
Riehman, who was not present at Tuesday’s school board meeting, has the authority to “override the action of the chief school administrator or a vote of the Board of Education on any matters,” he said in the release.
The school board voted 5-4 to suspend Bailey, who is the school district’s 15th superintendent in as many years. Board President Darleen Bey-Blocker cited an unspecified, ongoing state investigation as a reason for the decision.
Bey-Blocker, who would not provide any details about the investigation, expressed frustration Wednesday.
“I don’t even see why they need a board if the monitor can overturn everything — whether or not it’s good or bad for the district,” she said. “The state needs to come here and finish their job.”
She said she followed state law in the way the meeting was handled, having conferred with school board members and attorneys from other districts in the state.
Bey-Blocker also said that after an initial decision to have a public meeting, she was approached by Board Secretary Dennis Mulvihill, who said that Bailey changed her mind and wanted to discuss her case in executive session.
She added that it was highly suspect that a quorum of the City Council was present at the meeting. Four of the seven council members were present Tuesday night.
“We are here to improve the education system,” Bey-Blocker said. “I’m glad they brought (Bailey) back and everyone is happy. But what about the children? What about the children now? What must they be thinking of us as adults? As educators?”
The interim superintendent appointed at Tuesday’s meeting, Patricia Sofia, was not at the district’s administrative offices when called Wednesday.
Police Chief Jose Ruiz and several officers were requested to attend Tuesday’s meeting for safety reasons, Bey-Blocker said.
A group of high school students attending the meeting were escorted out of the school’s cafeteria, where the meeting was held, after the first outcry from the public following the superintendent’s suspension.
Ruiz said Wednesday that the school board has lost focus on what it is there for, which is to improve the learning experience in the district.
“As a parent and as a professional, the behavior I saw last night was embarrassing,” Ruiz said. “It was a disgrace.”
Riehman’s statement reverses the decision to hire special counsel, as well as restricts the payment of any legal fees that may have occurred without his approval.
Bailey was not available for comment.
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