ATLANTA - When we tried to talk with Henry County School Board Member Dr. Donna McBride, she just kept on walking.
Dr. McBride was elected to the Henry County School Board in 2014. She's now running for reelection. And running from our questions. Well, walking briskly.
But the FOX 5 I-Team has found that in February of this year, the Georgia Professional Standards Commission suspended her certificate as an educator - retroactively - for 20 days
The investigation of Dr. McBride came about because of her work as a Title 1 coordinator for DeKalb County Schools. A job she held before she was elected to the school board.
But a complaint filed with the State Department of Education alleged she "was employed by two separate Georgia school systems simultaneously" and "received pay from both systems for the same period of work time."
William Perry is head of the good government group, Georgia Ethics Watchdogs.
“Voters need to be aware of it. They've elected this person. Anytime you elect a candidate I think you do so on integrity. This shows a question of integrity,” said Perry.
The investigation documented a number of specific examples of getting paid by DeKalb while doing work with Henry County. Like this one: September 18-19 2014, Dr. McBride was at a Henry County School Board out of town conference, but was paid "16 hours of normal salary for the two days" by DeKalb County.
“Your taking advantage of taxpayer funds in DeKalb County by allowing them to pay you when you are not working for them. That's like stealing,” said William Perry.
In the report, Dr. McBride's attorney argued the "dual employment" was "not inappropriate" and "did not violate any standards of the Code of Ethics for Educators."
But, the Professional Standards commission consent order found Dr. McBride was "negligent in her adherence to district and state policies" during her "dual employment." Dr. McBride was asked to repay money that didn't comply with district policies. She repaid "$2753.82" and resigned, according to the report.
“You are part of teaching children to do the right thing. And, here you are doing far from the right thing,” said Perry.
At last week's Henry County board meeting, a citizen, Donna Crumbley, wanted to know if the Henry County board knew about the investigation and whether Dr. McBride informed them back in February.
“Did you feel it was your duty to disclose your suspension to the board of education, so they could investigate whether action needed to be taken at that time,” Crumbley asked.
I asked Henry County School Board chairman Josh Hinton if the board knew about Dr. McBride's punishment.
He emailed me to say she never told the board the details of the Professional Standards commission's investigation.
He says the matter obviously raises many questions which need to be addressed.
Two days after our story aired, we got this response from Dr.McBride:
Dear Citizens of Henry County:
I would like to apologize for not responding to recent media inquiry. As a representative of my District, I can assure you that the incident that is being played throughout the media took place in 2015 and has been addressed and finalized. My employment with two education systems was not found to be a conflict of interest. Therefore, my response to the most recent inquiry is as follows:
In January of 2015, I was an employee with the DeKalb County School System as a Title 1 Coordinator. Additionally, I had recently been elected as the District - 4 Henry County Board of Education Member. Within three months of assuming my role as a newly elected board member, unbeknownst to me, Mr. Rodney Bowler (former Superintendent), drafted an open records request to the DeKalb County School System and also gave notice to the Georgia Department of Education that I was employed by two school systems. Consequently, this was not a conflict of interest as one position was an elected position and the other was my personal employment, just as any other elected official may have.
Though close in timing, my decision to resign and untimely retire was in no way related to the allegations. Rather, it was to assist in caring for an ailing immediate family member, which also allowed me to give full attention to my new role as a board member.
As a citizen, and parent I am fully vested in Henry County, please know that as a Board of Education Member, I am here to serve the community and that each and every decision is with prayer and due diligence, as it is always my desire to do what is in the best interest of all children in Henry County.
In my opinion, the news story that has been brought forth is nothing more than a political ploy by my opponents and their affiliates. The sole purpose for bringing forth a three year old incident is to negatively impact the outcome of my political campaign. In less than 30 days on July 24, 2018, I will engage in run-off election where I am currently the incumbent.
Furthermore, it is my belief that my continuation as a board member is perceived as a threat because over the past four years I have brought to light some very disturbing discoveries such as, possible conflicts of interest of land acquisitions and field trips, inequitable disciplinary actions administered to students of color and socioeconomic status, and meeting the needs of Students With Disabilities to name a few. The aforementioned are only a few of the issues I have concerns about, yet I will continue to advocate for them. I often here from citizens in my district that they are tired of long standing, home grown relationships that keep the district from moving forward. From having bullet holes placed into my campaign yard signs, to informing the media about something that took place three years ago, I want to directly communicate to any opposition that I will not let this attempt to sabotage my campaign, discourage me from continuing to do what is right for my community.
In conclusion, I would like to thank my supporters for continuing to believe in me and their prayers. The negative acts of others will not keep me quiet or from interacting with the community and addressing the concerns of my district and the well-being of the children in Henry County. I will not be deterred.
Henry County Board of Education