Statement from the CSD School Board

A message from CSD Board Chair Tasha White

CSD Board of Education Statement, March 12, 2021

Statement by the City Schools of Decatur Board of Education

The Board of Education has received numerous inquiries about the lawsuits filed against the District, including the allegations regarding Dr. Dude’s leave. While we cannot answer specific questions related to pending litigation, we are providing this statement in order to address some of the overarching concerns expressed by the community. We regret if our silence, until this point, was construed as complacency. The Board takes allegations against the District and its employees very seriously, especially when they involve the Superintendent. Active personnel inquiries are confidential, and the Board has a duty to its employees to maintain the confidentiality of such matters. Nonetheless, we believe it is important for the public to know that in order to address the concerns that have arisen, the Board will retain an independent investigator from outside the District to look into these allegations. The Board’s intent in employing an investigator is to provide Dr. Dude with the due process and fairness to which he is entitled, while at the same time addressing the issues raised by the CSD employees and community.

The lawsuits brought against the District by Cheryl Nahmias and David Adams are being defended by Harben, Hartley, Hawkins, LLP, counsel assigned by CSD’s insurance carrier. The other litigation matters are being defended by CSD’s general counsel, Wilson, Morton & Downs, LLC. On the advice of counsel, the Board cannot comment specifically regarding any pending litigation.

With regard to Dr. Dude’s contract, there has been some confusion over the interpretation of certain language in that contract, which may have played a role in the belief that he has taken more leave than he is entitled to take. Dr. Dude’s current contract (July 1, 2018 – June 30, 2021), which was negotiated and agreed to by Dr. Dude and the Board, provides that he is entitled to receive 45 “vacation days” each school year. The term “vacation days,” as understood by both the Board and Dr. Dude at the time this contract and the previous contract were signed (and the plain and ordinary meaning of the term) refers to days that Dr. Dude takes off from work while the school district is open and that Dr. Dude would ordinarily be required to work. Thus, holidays and school breaks, such as spring break, Thanksgiving break, federal holidays, etc. when the District is closed, do not count toward those vacation days.

Dr. Dude’s current contract also provides that he can “cash-out” up to 30 days of unused vacation time each year. The vacation days, and the option to cash out a portion of unused vacation days, was part of Dr. Dude’s agreed-upon compensation package in both his original contract and his current contract. This practice is an alternative to paying a straight, often much higher, salary.

The Board recognizes that Dr. Dude’s contract is different from any other employee in the District and that this has caused confusion about the meaning of his contract. Accordingly, Dr. Dude suggested, and the Board agreed, to rescind his contract that was scheduled to take effect July 1, 2021, and sign a new agreement that provides for leave time that is consistent with other central office cabinet members. We believe this change will treat Dr. Dude in the same manner as all other cabinet-level employees and avoid further confusion in the future. That contract, like all other contracts, will be a public record.

We appreciate your inquiries, attendance, and comments at meetings. We will endeavor to keep the community informed of these matters to the greatest extent possible while respecting the limitations placed on us by law.

Many of you have expressed your frustration, you have questions and want answers. Please know that the Board hears you and we are actively engaged in finding solutions. I won't sugarcoat this. These are tough times. And some have lost faith that your school leadership can get us all through this. The Board is here and we show up every single day. If we all can continue to walk towards each other and lean into each other, we can and will get through this. I cannot stress enough how important your children's education is to this board.

The Board wants to be as open and honest as possible with the community about this process and we recognize that we are accountable to you, the voters.

Thank you.