Kerri Tatum, the secondary education director of Greater Albany Public Schools, submitted her letter of resignation last Thursday morning to interim superintendent Rob Saxton, assistant superintendent Lisa Harlan and the board of directors.
In the letter, she stated that she has “watched this district deteriorate and all of the work be systematically undone in favor of one school and a handful of well connected friends.” She is leaving the district to take a new position elsewhere.
Tatum’s resignation from the district is the latest in a string of several departures since June. She said she has seen 10 administrative staff members leave for a multitude of reasons this summer.
Within recent months, much of the GAPS administration changed with the addition of Roger Nyquist, Pete Morse and Brad Wilson to the board, and the firing of superintendent Melissa Goff.
Saxton and chief of staff Rich Sipe were brought on soon after. In her resignation letter, Tatum referred to these new additions as the “good ol’ boy arrangement.”
“I have seen the positions of superintendent, chief of staff, director of operations, high school assistant principal and high school athletic director all filled by white men in this same friend group without a hiring process and with no chance for a woman or person of color to apply,” she wrote.
Although several employees have left the district in a short amount of time, Saxton said this is the reality for large school districts.
“We have over 1,000 employees in the district,” Saxton said. “In every school district, every year, there are a few people who leave and a few people who come.”
Russell Buttram, who was the GAPS executive director of operations for five years, resigned from his position on July 28 for similar reasons as Tatum. He publicly announced his resignation on Facebook, where he stated he would not be able to look himself in the mirror and know he was doing the right thing if he stayed with the district.
“I simply reached a point where I felt I could not support the actions of the new Board, nor reconcile their campaign promises with the actual actions I’ve observed,” Buttram wrote. “Since I could not square my values with those of the people in charge, I had to leave.”
The breaking point for Buttram was the hiring process of Sipe. Buttram said that he learned that Nyquist personally arranged the hiring of Sipe as chief of staff while Saxton was on vacation, and board members should not be involved in staffing decisions below the superintendent.
Saxton said he was aware that there was some disagreement with how the new administration was running things, but that he had hardly spoken with Buttram or Tatum prior to their departures. As for the hiring of Sipe, Saxton said it was his decision and not Nyquist’s.
“I put him in the position around July 27,” Saxton said. “There have been some people who think I wasn’t the person who hired him, but I was.”
Nancy Dickerman, who previously worked as the assistant to the executive director of human resources, left her position on Aug. 19. She left for numerous reasons, mainly because of the workload and all of the changes happening in the administration.
“The turmoil that had been happening with all of the changes was taking a little bit of a toll on my stress level,” Dickerman said. “I had already been looking for other positions. It was my own decision for my emotional health.”
Joanna Mann covers education for Mid-Valley Media. She can be contacted at 541-812-6076 or Joanna.Mann@lee.net. Follow her on Twitter via @joanna_mann_.