Muscogee County School Board re-votes to hire member's daughter - WJBF-TV ABC 6 Augusta-Aiken News, Weather, Sports

Muscogee County School Board re-votes and approves to hire member's daughter

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COLUMBUS, Ga. -

On Monday night the Muscogee County School Board re-voted and once again approved the hire of a board member's daughter after the first vote broke state law. But this time board member Athavia Senior recused herself from the vote.

In September, the rookie board member voted to hire her daughter, Jonai Senior, as an English teacher at Fort Middle School. But Georgia law states that board members cannot vote on immediate family member's employment within the district. Board Chair Rob Varner called it a simple mistake on Monday and said the new vote would correct it. He said the matter has been frustrating and is distracting the community and the board from other district issues.

News 3 reached out to Athavia Senior on Monday, but our calls were not returned. At the board meeting she said, "I do apologize for inadvertently missing the opportunity to recuse myself at the last board meeting."

Community Activist Nathan Smith is calling on the board to look into the district's hiring practices, which he is calling unfair. "It seems to me that there was possibly a deal made," Smith told News 3 when asked about Jonai Senior's hiring, although he cannot prove it.

Jonai Senior was hired in August after two unexpected openings at Fort Middle School. Smith claims around the same time she applied for the job, her mom, a new board member, changed her view on getting rid of the district's current legal counsel. "All of this appears like Ms. Senior's vote was bought and paid for with a job for her daughter."

District documents show Jonai Senior, who is not yet a certified teacher, was selected from a pool of at least 28 applicants. She was one of five interviewed; four of them had previous teacher certifications. Jonai Senior is currently working under a provisional certification.

"Get a qualified teacher to teach the children. We don't have to settle for second best when we had the best that was applying," Smith said.

But district officials maintain, Jonai Senior is the best person for the job. Documents show she demonstrated a stronger English background than most education majors, is an alumnus of Fort Middle School and has other training that will be useful in athletic or extra-curricular activities. She is on track to get her certification from a Georgia university and has completed at least six course hours in the program, all of which are requirements of the district. Since her area of expertise is a critical needs area as identified by the district they were willing to work with her while she gets certified. School officials said it is common practice to employ people with provisional certifications, as long as they meet all the requirements.

But Smith is still calling for the district probe. "This is possibly is going to open the door for some lawsuits to happen."

Sydney Cameron

Sydney joined the WRBL news team in December 2011 after working as a freelance reporter in Washington, D.C. More>>

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