The Oconee County Board of Education on Thursday selected Vice Chair Kim Argo to move into the open position of Board chair and, without considering seeking applications from the public, appointed former Board Member Wayne Bagley to replace Argo.
The Board also selected Board Member Amy Parrish as vice chair to replace Argo.
Argo, whose term would have expired in 2022, will now fill out Tom Odom’s terms as chair, which ends in 2024. Odom, re-elected only last November, stepped down on Aug. 9, citing health reasons, with his tenure ending on Wednesday.
The Board followed precedent in appointing Argo to serve out Odom’s term, but went against usual procedures in appointing Bagley without advertising the opening and taking applications.
Superintendent Jason Branch told the Board it had sought outside applications as recently as 2016 when it appointed current Board Member Amy Parrish to fill an open slot.
Bagley was selected by the Board in 2010 to serve an open term after 17 people applied for the announced open position.
Bagley stepped down at the end of his term in 2020. He is vice president for Development for Lassiter Properties of Atlanta.
Bagley was at the meeting and accepted the nomination.
Not A Surprise Internally
Zoe Gattie, executive assistant to Superintendent Jason Branch, sent out notice of Thursday’s called meeting at the end of the school day on Monday.
|Branch And Argo|
Argo had refused on Aug. 24 to provide information on the procedures or the time line for the decision on Odom’s replacement or indicate whether it would be discussed at the next scheduled Board meeting on Sept. 13.
The meeting on Thursday lasted only 20 minutes, five minutes of which were taken up by a monologue by Board Member Tim Burgess about Board needs and Bagley’s qualifications for the job. Burgess then nominated Bagley, who was approved without discussion.
As the meeting was ending, Anisa Sullivan Jimenez, director of Communications for Oconee County Schools, left the meeting room and posted on the school web site an announcement of the Board decision.
That announcement contains laudatory quotes from Burgess about the appointment of Argo and from Board Member Michael Ransom on the appointment of Parrish as vice chair and on Bagley. The comments in the release were not taken from comments at the meeting.
“We look forward to welcoming back Wayne Bagley to the Board of Education,” Ransom said in those prepared quotes.
Argo has served on the Board since 2009 and as vice chair since 2013. Argo is a retired educator, having taught in Oconee, Madison, and Oglethorpe counties and served as a school administrator in Walton County.
Legislation passed by the Georgia General Assembly in 1964 allows the Oconee County Board of Education to fill vacancies on the Board by procedures it sets for itself.
The legislation is referred to as local legislation because it applies only locally, in this case, to Oconee County.
Without the legislation, the Board of Education would have to follow the dictates of the state constitution.
The constitution requires that vacancies that occur more than 90 days from a November even-year election would have to be filled by a special election.
The Board could fill the vacancy only for the period leading up to that special election.
The local legislation passed in 1964 for Oconee County removed entirely the election requirement.
That 1964 legislation could be rescinded and replaced by the legislature if requested by Oconee County’s House Representatives Houston Gaines and Marcus Wiedower and Senator Bill Cowsert, as the legislature defers to the local delegation on local legislation.
The School Board’s five members are assigned to posts, with Post 1 designated as the chair’s position. The posts are all elected by voters county-wide.
At the beginning of the meeting on Thursday, Branch said “I appreciate the Board coming together tonight to talk about the Post 1 vacancy, that is the Board chair vacancy.”
Branch then showed the Board the constitution, the allowance for exceptions, and the exception approved for Oconee County in 1964.
Branch said the Board “has used a variety of processes over the years” to replace Board members, and he reviewed what had taken place when Christine Franklin replaced Tommy Warren as Board chair in 2001 after Warren passed away.
Franklin, who was vice chair, resigned her post and was appointed by the Board as chair. The Board then advertised for replacements for her position.
Branch also reminded the Board that Parrish was selected to replace Mark Thomas in 2016. Branch said the Board announced the opening and two people applied.
“The Board has at your leisure to do as you please in terms of the majority vote,” Branch said. Branch said the purpose of his review was to explain what the Board had done in the past.
Branch did not say, but current Board Member Burgess was appointed by the Board from eight applicants. The 17 applicants that came when Bagley was appointed in 2010 is a recent record.
What Happened Next
Branch said any member of the Board who was willing to step into the chair position as Post 1 Board Member would have to resign from her or his current position to do so.
In that case, the Board would have to decide how to fill the newly vacated position.
Parrish then asked Argo to step down as Post 3 Board member and step into the chair position.
“With the support of my colleagues,” Argo said, “I will accept the position and I’m honored and both humbled that you put your trust in me to hold this leadership role.”
“I would like to resign my position as Post 3 representative on the Board of Education,” she continued.
The Board accepted Argo’s resignation and unanimously appointed her to the Post 1 position.
All of that took 10 minutes.
Post 3 Opening
Burgess immediately began speaking, and he continued without pause for five minutes.
He commented on the school closing at the end of 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic and operating through all of last year with distance and in-person instruction.
That “has got to have been the most difficult year that you could possibly go through as a school system with a superintendent who led us valiantly,” Burgess said.
“And unfortunately this virus is not completely gone yet,” Burgess said. “So we’re still dealing with it. It is still in front of us. It is still out there.”
In addition, Burgess said, Oconee County Schools is undertaking “a massive construction system that’s just now being initiated that we’re going to be dealing with for the next three or four years.”
“To me, when you put all of those together,” Burgess said, “one of the things that I come to believe is we need a seasoned, practical, person to fill this now vacant Post 3 with no learning curve, that brings a lot of experience and skill to the Board and to our operations, that will allow us to deal with all of those challenges and others that we may not even know about.”
“And, as I thought about that, I can think of no other person that fits that set of requirements than someone that we’ve known for quite a while,” Burgess said. “Someone who spent the lasts 10 years on this Board.”
Nomination And Discussion
“I would like to place in nomination Mr. Wayne Bagley to fill the now vacant Post 3 term,” Burgess said, “and I just hope that he will be willing to accept that nomination.”
Ransom seconded the motion.
“I think, obviously I adore Wayne,” Parrish said. “For all the reasons that Tim stated, the expertise, the fact that he has the experience.
“I just want to be clear about one thing,” she said, turning to Branch. “Post 3 is the same as mine. When do they end?”
Branch said that the terms of both Parrish’s Post 2 and Post 3 will end in 16 months. Primaries will be in May of 2022, and the election in November of that year.
“We would probably want to make sure that the candidate is accepting the nomination,” Branch suggested.
“I would be more than happy to fill the vacant term,” Bagley, sitting in the front row, replied.
The motion passed without any further discussion.
Vice Chair Election
Branch then reminded the Board that it no longer had a vice chair and suggested it elect one.
Random nominated Parrish. Burgess seconded.
Parrish accepted the nomination, and the vote again was unanimous.
Branch told the Board he will send the paperwork reflecting the actions of the Board to the Governor, Secretary of State, and State School Superintendent.
It might be possible to have a swearing in ceremony at the beginning of the next Board meeting at 6 p.m. on Sept. 13, he said.
I did not attend the meeting, but John Phillips did and recorded the video below.
Branch outlined the procedures starting at 0:27 in the video.
Discussion of the Chair appointment begins at 7:55 in the video.
Burgess began his comments at 10:35