Friday, May 29, 2009

29 MAY 09: Retired? Released? Relieved?

Every spring the Muscogee County School District holds a dinner to honor retiring employees. The dinner list two weeks ago included two principals who left under a cloud. The judgment for one of them has not been revealed until today. And it turns out she was wise to retire on her own - because the state of Georgia might have done it for her.

BLOG EXCLUSIVE: Your blog learned Thursday former Rigdon Road Elementary School Principal Phyllis Jones has had her teaching certificate suspended by the state. The one-year suspension takes effect this coming Monday - perhaps so it doesn't distract Columbus High School today in the state baseball finals.

The one-year suspension for Phyllis Jones was confirmed by a staff member with the Georgia Professional Standards Commission. It matches the punishment for former Columbus High principal Susan Bryant. Now I'm wondering if they sat at the same table during that dinner, and swapped stories about attorneys.

We must be careful to say Phyllis Jones's teaching certificate was "suspended." It was not revoked, which is a different punishment in Georgia teacher ethics cases. Jones can be reinstated as a principal in June 2010 - and judging from this year's CRCT results, Rigdon Road might stage a parade to welcome her back.

The state rules for a suspended teaching certificate are rather strict. They state Phyllis Jones cannot even serve as a volunteer at a school for the next year. That apparently rules out the educational "consultant" work she told us about last fall. And so much for making extra money as a part-time bus driver....

Ethics investigators concluded Phyllis Jones violated Georgia teaching standards in two areas: "Public Funds and Property" and "Professional Conduct." Follow the advice of that old rock song "Take the Money and Run," and you probably cover both of them.

In case you came in late: Phyllis Jones suddenly retired as Rigdon Road Principal last September. It raised some eyebrows, and prompted a reader to urge us to investigate [17 Sep 08]. That request and others led to a Big Blog Question, which nearly ended the jokes on this blog - and, to be honest, would have given us a lot more free time to play online poker.

We happened to see Phyllis Jones outside the Liberty Theatre in November. In what apparently is still her only public comment on the case, she denied doing anything wrong [10 Nov 08]. Jones even compared herself to Jesus - but thankfully the Georgia Professional Standards Commission didn't quite go all the way with that.

After another tip about Phyllis Jones's personnel record (and as a few e-mail insults were fired toward us), we confirmed a complaint was filed in Atlanta [20 Nov 08]. The Ledger-Enquirer obtained more details than we could, revealing the Muscogee County School District did the filing [23 Nov 08]. Maybe now we'll prod the newspaper into investigating something again....

I was surprised to find a "Phyllis Jones" in the Columbus phone book Thursday - and with a Rigdon Road address at that. We dialed the number and left a message seeking a comment, but our call was NOT returned. Perhaps Jones will talk after one of those "retirement road trips" she mentioned last November - and 35 years in education means she has a huge pension for taking them.

Phyllis Jones apparently was punished for mishandling money from a Rigdon Road School book fair. That's sad, considering one recent book for educators cited Jones as a great example of "responsibility." Hire a responsible accountant, and we probably wouldn't have a topic to discuss.

BLOG UPDATE: The results of another local investigation were announced Thursday evening at the Government Center. Georgia Bureau of Investigation agents found NO wrongdoing at the Muscogee County Junior Marshal's office. Maybe now the Junior Marshal's program can end its separation, with that office miles away on Wynnton Road.

The G.B.I. determined there was nothing illegal about the stepdaughter of Municipal Court Clerk Vivian Creighton Bishop being on the Junior Marshal's Program payroll. It turns out Aayesha Owens Reese received NO city money, but was paid from a fund built with private donations. Uh-oh - how many Democrats put money in that account?

The G.B.I. also concluded there was nothing illegal about Vivian Creighton Bishop handling paychecks for stepson Stephen Reese, while he was working with the Junior Marshal's office. Investigators determined Reese never had a city account set up in his name. And what's this country become, if a mother can't give her stepson an allowance?

Yet the early reports on the G.B.I. findings still leave some questions unanswered:

+ An attorney at Thursday's news conference asked why the city Finance Department never set up a payroll account for Stephen Reese. Of course, the staff has been quite busy setting up accounts for all those new police officers.

+ What about the claim of City Attorney Clifton Fay, that Aayesha Owens Reese never did any work in Columbus? [4 Mar] Could any Junior Marshal be able to pick her out of a lineup?

+ What about the report from an Atlanta blog that Aayesha Owens Reese never reported her Junior Marshal's office income, after she filed for divorce from Stephen Reese in January? The bride is asking for child support - and with gas prices up again, the commutes between metro Atlanta and Columbus to look for work can be costly.

+ Who tipped off The Courier's "Street Committee" about the outcome of this investigation? The tabloid claimed in its 9 April edition that "many will be left with egg on their faces as a result of the findings." Of course, the egg would have been on the Bishop family's faces if the G.B.I. had found the other way....

-> How are the Thursday night poker games going? We're glad you asked. Read about our latest match at our other blog, "On the Flop!" <--

E-MAIL UPDATE: We've mentioned one of these changes already, but didn't know about the other....

Richard, I turned my radio on Tues morning at 9 a.m. Instead of hearing Bill Bennett's last hour (WRCG1420) there was Duke and the Doctor. It seems they made the switch from WDAK 540. I turned the radio off as I had already seen Dr. McBarron on the Calvin show from 6-7 a.m. Then at 1p.m. I turned my radio back on to listen to Clark Howard only to find that WRCG had taken his lst hour off and replaced it with some sports show. So again I turned my radio off and called the station. They explained they would be carrying Clark Howard only from 2-4. I guess WRCG is making changes hoping to improve their ratings. What they really need to do is put Talkline back on the air. That would almost assure them high ratings (at least for the hour or hours it would be on). I did leave a message to that effect on their voicemail and sent an email several months ago but never got a reply. Do you happen to know what the ratings were for Talkline? Everywhere I went around the Chattahoochee Valley people would be talking about the show.

The web site of Duke and the Doctor confirms the change of radio stations. It praises WRCG, without mentioning the old one. After all, Clear Channel someday may find enough money to have local talk shows again.

(To correct the e-mailer: Duke and the Doctor actually aired on WSHE-AM 1270. This explains why that station's web site didn't mention the program in recent weeks. But then, WRCG's web site still doesn't mention it -- as if they're waiting for proof that the items at Peachtree Natural Foods really work.

We noted here about two weeks ago that Coach B.R. Johnson had moved his daily sports hour to WRCG [17 May]. But someone who's friends with the new owners of WRCG has taken back his statement last year that "Talkline is coming back." The owners apparently decided the same small clique would keep calling day after day - and even worse, half of them might mention this blog.

Doug Kellett likes to say WRCG was a "top three station" in Columbus during the years when he hosted Talkline. But even before the show was canceled, the overall ratings eroded. The turning point seemed to come in 2003, after WDAK took Rush Limbaugh away. Without all those "dittos," the listening audience approached "hash marks."

Let's see what else we can talk about, from a busy Thursday:

+ Synovus announced President Fred Green III had resigned, with Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Richard Anthony taking the job. At last, corporate "downsizing" hit the top of the corporate ladder....

(A Synovus statement didn't really explain why the change of presidents occurred. But let's face it -- Fred Green III's leadership hasn't brought the financial company much "green" lately.)

+ The Georgia Department of Natural Resources announced the visitor's center at Providence Canyon State Park in Stewart County will close, to save money. The park's picnic shelter will close as well - a move I admittedly don't understand. Install a vending machine offering towelettes for 25 cents, and the state might make some money there.

+ Richard Hyatt's web site reported accused attorney Mark Shelnutt performed music Wednesday night at The Loft, on "songwriters' night." Wow - I thought potential jailbirds waited a little longer to start "singing."

+ Instant Message to Katya Shivashankar: Congratulations! I was happy to see a Kansan win the National Spelling Bee Thursday night -- but I think you had an unfair advantage. With a last name like Shivashankar, you started learning to spell big words at a very early age.

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