SCCPSS board president not seeking second term

SCCPSS board president not seeking second term
Jolene Byrne (Source: WTOC)

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - The board president of the Savannah-Chatham County Public School System says she is not seeking a second term.

Jolene Byrne made the announcement late Thursday in a very lengthy post on her Facebook page.

In the post, she highlighted some of the district's accomplishments, which she says include reducing the number of students being referred to juvenile justice and providing raises to teachers.

However, she also said the district still has a lot to accomplish. She says 27 percent of schools failed to make marginal improvements and blamed this on the school board.

Some may be surprised by this, others may not be. In giving her reasoning in a Facebook post, she cites poor politics and a deteriorating relationship with school administrators as two big problems.

Bryne says While these complaints were made for political reasons, they have served to uncover some of the dysfunction that years of cronyism and apathy have created in the district.

But in a four-page letter to the agency last April, former superintendent Dr. Thomas Lockamy said Byrne was part of the problem. Saying she lacks ability or desire to build relationships with fellow board members, she operates in a silo, and she fails to communicate.

SACS investigators were in Savannah to conduct on-site interviews in November. It was supposed to be the final step in their investigation but sources tell us investigators have requested more documents and information since then.

Investigators are closely watching social media and local news, looking for any evidence that may be tied to board-governance issues.

And if investigators weren't already aware, Byrne makes it clear in her post.

"A poor working relationship with fellow board members and the superintendent after Dr. Ann Levett was approved as superintendent. Byrne says the split vote fractured the board along how they voted… making it impossible to get things done and effectively communicate."

The findings of the SACS investigation could be out any day. It will decide whether the district's accreditation status will be reduced to "an under review" status, probation and a dicey place to be for the already struggling school system.

Byrne is accepting responsibility for schools in Chatham County that remain on the state's failing list and the ongoing crime among school aged teens.

In that post, she says the reason for only marginal improvements in so many school is because quote, "we as a school Board and as a District are failing them."

She closes her post saying, "while my term as Board President will come to an end in eleven months, my dedication to public education, to our community, and to all of you is a life-long commitment."

WTOC reached out to all eight board members. We have heard back from five.

Among those who went on the record was Larry Lower. He tells me Byrne rarely made herself part of the board and was difficult to work with most of the time.

Cornelia Hall saying quote, "Best wishes to Ms. Byrne as she follows new pursuits!"

Superintendent Dr. Ann Levett had no comment.

Byrne says she believes not seeking a second term is in the community's best interest.

Read Byrne's full Facebook post below:

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