Schools still mum on suspension
Wednesday, October 2, 2013 1:00 AM
City school officials wouldn't say specifically what went on behind closed doors Monday night during a sixth special meeting to discuss an ongoing personnel matter involving suspended Philadelphia Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Terry Larabee.
School Board President Ron Sparnecht would not comment after they spent an hour and 45 minutes in executive session with their attorney, Amy Kilpatrick Taylor.
"The board will speak through its minutes," Sparnecht said after the meeting in the high school library.
The law does not require that an executive session vote be announced except through the public body's minutes.
The Open Meetings Act allows a School Board 30 days to release minutes.
Tuesday morning, Sparnecht said it was "common knowledge" that Larabee has brought in an attorney.
"Our attorney and his attorney are discussing our options," Sparnecht said.
He said the School Board hopes to resolve the matter soon.
"We are going to do this as quickly and expediently as we can, keeping in mind that these are legal issues that we have never faced before," he said. "We are in unchartered waters and we have to be very careful how we address this and it be done correctly and legally."
Larabee remains on administrative leave until further notice, according to earlier school board minutes.
Another voicemail left on Larabee's cell phone seeking comment Tuesday went unreturned.
About 100 people packed the Philadelphia High School cafeteria on Sept. 17, voicing complaints about Larabee, who was placed on administrative leave on Sept. 4.
After that executive session ended, Sparnecht said that no action was taken and asked those in attendance for patience.
"The board appreciates our community's involvement voicing their concerns in the issue addressed this evening," he said then.
"We as a board share these same concerns as evidenced by the four special called board meetings on this same issue thus far. We are in unchartered water and simply ask the public to allow us time as we diligently seek the most proper and legal resolution to this issue."
On Sept. 4, the board approved an independent investigation into the personnel matter and placed Larabee on administrative leave, according to the minutes of the meeting.
Four days earlier police were dispatched to the Larabee home. No charges were filed in the incident that stemmed from a personal matter, said Capt. Dan Refre of the Philadelphia Police Department.
On Sept. 9, the School Board extended Larabee's administrative leave until further notice.
Christie Rowcliff, special education director, and Lee Ann Fulton, curriculum director, were appointed jointly as acting superintendent.
On Sept. 16, the board met with Larabee in the high school library in an executive session for over two hours before ending without any action taken.
During the Sept. 17 regular school board meeting in the cafeteria, the School Board entered into an executive session and heard from a number of people behind closed doors.
For more than an hour, attendees waited for news from the board and periodically a person was called in to talk to the board.
When Leroy Clemons, president of the Neshoba County chapter of the NAACP, was asked to speak, cheering and clapping followed him into the closed meeting.
While what was said during the closed session was not made public, Clemons furnished a copy of his prepared remarks to a Democrat reporter.
"It is regrettable that instead of being here tonight to celebrate the recent improvement in our test scores and the remarkable work of our students, teachers and administrator, we are forced to address an alleged issue of ... behavior," Clemons wrote.
"We, the Neshoba NAACP, ask the school board that if the recent allegations of ... behavior be confirmed, that Philadelphia School District Superintendent of Education, Dr. Terry Larabee be held accountable to the same codes of conduct that govern our state and local school district."
Clemons said he had interviewed more than 100 people, from teachers, students, parents and community members, and that many have expressed fear, anger and lack of confidence in the city school system.
No action was taken in the Sept. 23 and 24 executive sessions.