The announcement of a board of education special-called meeting for Monday night has caught many off guard and has people wondering if the school board is in violation of state laws.

Board policy states special meetings "may be called by the chairman whenever, in his/her judgment, the interests of the schools require it, or when requested to do so by a majority of the board."

Orville Hale, 8th District representative, noted in a letter to BOE Chairperson Shirley Parris that such requests were to be received by her in writing. Three requests by the Chronicle for those documents have not been honored. The last request was made Monday morning prior to press time when Parris stopped by the Chronicle office.

Parris said, "Those will be handed over to the attorney and given to the recorder to be made part of the record of the meeting."

Hale also requested those letters, but as of press time Monday, his request had not been honored, either. Dan Schlafer, 9th District representative, said Friday he had requested those documents and was told he could see them, but the name of the board members would not be shown.

The agenda for the Monday meeting included discussion of a transfer of Director of Schools Patricia Ragsdale to an unknown position in the school system and appointment of an interim director of schools.

Ragsdale has said Parris asked her to resign twice, once after the Sept. 12 board meeting and again a few days ago. Parris denied that charge in a letter to Ragsdale. That letter is in response to a Sept. 21 letter to Parris from Ragsdale.

"There are several ways to search for a new director of schools and there are diplomatic ways to end a working relationship with an existing director," Ragsdale said Friday. "There's no emergency or reason to be in a hurry and suddenly we have a special-called meeting to take action on my assignment for no reason."

If transferred, Ragsdale will still receive her salary of $93,000 and the insurance benefits of her contract, which is in effect until June 30, 2007. She said resigning from her position would hurt her retirement plans, as she has 29 years of service in the Tennessee education system.

Ragsdale said she has not received a list of grievances or reasons to be transferred out of the director's position.

First District representative Brian Houston, 4th District representative Ricky Smith and 6th District representative Victor Randolph, all new board members, said they had asked for the special meeting. They would not elaborate on their reasons. Second District representative Robert Safdie, 8th District representative Orville Hale and 9th District representative Dan Schlafer said they had not requested the meeting. Hale and Schlafer asked for the meeting to be postponed. Schlafer has a prior commitment out of town and would not be able to attend Monday's meeting. Hale said he felt more time was needed to get public input.

"It is my personal opinion that to transfer the director of schools to a classroom teaching position with only nine months left on her contract would be a financially irresponsible decision for our board to consider," Schlafer said in an e-mail. "Besides paying a director's salary to a classroom teacher, there would be the unbudgeted expense of paying the salary and benefits to an interim director of schools, therefore doubling the burden on those who pay the bills."

Hale wrote, "I feel it is my duty to inform you that the calling to order of a meeting with this agenda on Monday of next week will make the entire school board, in my opinion, appear to the public as if they're trying to orchestrate some type of coup de gras."

Calls to Parris, 5th District representative Gordon Davis and 7th District representative Mary Smith were not returned.

Notice of the meeting was received by phone at the Chronicle late Thursday afternoon. A short time later, Director of Schools Patricia Ragsdale notified the newspaper that the meeting might not be held Monday because some BOE members would be out of town. Written notice saying the meeting would be held arrived after press time Thursday. Due to the uncertainty of the meeting, notice was not published in Friday's Chronicle.

See Wednesday's Chronicle for coverage of the Monday meeting.

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