Fife Whiteside’s Side

  Departing Muscogee County School District Board member Fife Whiteside is concerned that Dr. John Phillips could continue on as superintendent after he finishes his 90-day interim term. He cites a blog post on Richard Hyatt’s Columbus speculating that may be in the works. He pointed that out to me in a letter he wrote in response to my blog post about the Board’s call meeting to approve a three-month interim term for retired Superintendent John Phillips. Dr. Phillips told me that he has no intention to serve more than the 90-days, that he was reluctant to even do that but that he did it for the children and a smooth transition.  


  In commenting on my post, Mr. Whiteside said he wished I had talked to him about it because I wasn’t given the complete facts. He’s right. I should have talked with him to get his side. Now, I am going to do my best to report it from the letter he sent.


  In my blog I reported that Board member Dr. Phillip Schley told me that Mr. Whiteside was wrong about receiving advance notice of the meeting, that he phoned him a week before. Mr. Whiteside, whose main objection to the job offer was that not enough notice of the meeting was given, said Dr. Schley did call him to tell him that the highly qualified man who was going to be offered the interim job turned down consideration so the special meeting had to be called. However, he said he talked with that man and was told by him that he was only offered not the 90-day job. He was offered  the 30-day term that was arranged so that Dr. Phillips could qualify for full retirement and full salary when assumed the interim job. State rules require Dr. Phillips not be employed by the District for 30 days after he retired.  And the real kicker is that the man told him that Dr. Schley had contacted him four months prior to Dr. Schley’s conversation with him only a week before the call meeting.


    “These facts, taken in tandem, make it clear that at least some on the Board knew what Dr. Phillips plan was at least four months before all of the Board members did. Also, it’s clear that he did not want the public to know that he would be claiming retirement while on the payroll.


  “This disparity of information flow to the Board members is the major reason for so much disharmony on the Board, in my view.”


    In my post I related the statement by Dr. Schley said that the Board may be harmonius after the first of the year. Mr. Whitehead said that may be true since some current Board members appear to have been involved in recruiting candidates, who he assumes are people who would agree with them, to replace departing Board members.


  “The question is whether or not this is a good thing.”


   After that statement, he went on to comment about relate that Dr. Phillips left the Bartow County School District insolvent by $4.5 million and that most Board members only learned about it after he had left.  Dr. Phillips told me that he did not know about the $4 million dollar deficit before he left so he couldn’t have told board members. He explained that the four million resulted from a new state mandated accounting system involving two months that school teacher salaries are pro-rated. “I found the system in financial difficulties when I took the job and got them out of it and was praised by the Board chairman for doing it.” The audit states that problems resulted for the district when the state cut back funds because of a shortfall in tax revenues.


  Mr. Whiteside concern, he says, is that the MCSD Board will be too harmonious. “Boards become harmonious because they are working well together, or they are doing nothing.”


  As to Dr. Schley’s charge that Mr. Whiteside is on a personal vendetta against Dr. Phillips, he said, “I am certainly not on a ‘vendetta’ against Dr. Phillips, but I will say that I do have personal issues with Dr. Phillips, and not to admit that would be a lie.” He said his personal position is about 15-20 percentr personal, and about 80-85 percent philosophical and professional.


  He said Dr. Phillips has a dark side to his operating style where he “Straightens out his Boards.”  Support him and he’s accommodating, don’t and he doesn’t. He said he had been personally attacked by Dr. Phillips and his administrators when he disagreed with him. He didn’t go into details. Dr. Phillips said that is “categorically untrue. I have bent over backwards in trying to get along with him.”


  Mr. Whiteside concludes with, “All of that, however, is pretty much academic, because I will be gone, I am thankful to say, in about five months. What will be interesting is to see if Dr. Phillips will be. If not, you can assume the problems will go on, but you may not know about any of them. That’s the thing people should be afraid of.”


  There, I’ve tried to give you Fife Whiteside’s side.






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