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A sad day
for county schoolsIt is a sad day for Madison County schools.
The thick stack of papers released by the county school system
this week tells a shocking story about Comer principal Mac Almond,
who submitted his letter of resignation this past week.
James Madison should be remembered
Last Friday, March 16, 2001, was the 250th birthday of the man
for whom Madison County was named. On that day, I asked 25 people
to identify this famous man and describe his accomplishments.
Diamond Raiders split games during week, stay at .500
The Raiders split four contests on the diamond over the past
week, keeping their record at the .500 mark at 4-4.
The squad notched two wins over Morgan County in a doubleheader
Friday, downing the Bulldogs 4-1 and 6-2.
Missing child found in woods near grandparents' home
A 5-year-old child was missing for several hours Friday before
being found in the woods near his grandparents' home in Banks
Some 25 men from the Banks County sheriff's office, fire department
and emergency medical service (EMS) gathered at the home of Bill
and Carole Jackson on Cates Bridge Road to search for their missing
5-year-old grandson, Griffin.
More than 500,000 gallons of water lost when vandals
open hydrants across Banks County
Banks County lost more than 500,000 gallons of water over the
weekend after vandals opened fire hydrants across the county.
Banks County water employees and firemen were kept busy Saturday
night, trying to keep up with vandals who were opening fire hydrants
across the county.
Banks County voters overwhelmingly voiced their support for a
proposed special purpose local option sales tax Tuesday. Voters
approved the SPLOST 732-82 on a special ballot.
Country music legend Watson performs at BCHS
Country music legend Gene Watson performed Saturday night at
Banks County High School to a fan-packed auditorium.
This was his second year appearing at BCHS to help the Banks
County Band Boosters Club.
Trial begins for December 1998 murder case. Jury sequestered as Wayne Cochran goes on trial for
murder of Kimberly Warren. A 12-member jury was selected Wednesday
and opening arguments were given in the murder trial of Emory
Wayne Cochran, who is charged in the December 1998 murder of
Zoning Foes Win In Nicholson ElectionWheeler, Kitchens
Win Council Seats --
Voters in Nicholson braved gusting winds and driving rain Tuesday
to reject the concept of zoning in a special city council election.
With a turnout of 42 percent, voters chose anti-zoning candidates
Chuck Wheeler and Billy Kitchens form a field of seven to serve
terms for the rest of the year.
New Sewer Line Route Crosses Land Of Chairman's Wife
The wife of the chairman of the Jackson County Water and Sewerage
Authority could find her property more valuable after the authority
voted to reroute a controversial sewer line across her land.
County Movers And Shakers
To Brainstorm Over FutureJackson County's top leaders will gather
in May to brainstorm over the county's future.
Developer fined for violation of soil ordinance. A Jackson County developer has been fined for violating
the county soil erosion ordinance.
County seeks citizens to serve on dangerous dog control
County manager Skip Nalley is seeking names of countians to serve
on a board to hear dangerous dog complaints.
The Madison County Journal
Telephone: (706) 367-5233
Fax: (706) 367-8056
NEWS / ADVERTISING
® Copyright 2001
MainStreet Newspapers, Inc.
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TUESDAY NIGHT CROWD
A crowd of approximately 300 people packed the high school
media center Tuesday night to show support for Mac Almond, who
resigned as Comer Elementary School principal this past week.
Mac Almond resignsBOE
releases allegations against former principal
Mac Almond has resigned as principal of Comer Elementary School,
a post he held for the past 26 years.
The Madison County school board accepted his resignation Monday
and on Tuesday school board attorney Lane Fitzpatrick released
approximately 150 pages of evidence to support allegations that
Almond has shown a "pattern...of personal abuse of school
funds," that he has disposed of evidence that might incriminate
him, that he has falsified leave records for himself and teachers
and that frequent absences left him unable to perform his duties.
Almond did not return a call to his home Tuesday, but his attorney,
Ed Tolley of Athens, faxed a letter from Almond in which the
former principal denied the allegations (see box for full letter).
The board has not voted on any action beyond accepting the resignation.
A discipline hearing scheduled for March 28 has been called off
in light of the resignation.
The most notable charge is that Almond had former central office
secretary Carlene Fields, who was fired Feb. 28, use a stamp
of interim superintendent Allen McCannon's signature for unauthorized
salary supplements for Almond and other Comer staff members.
"Mr. Almond sent a memo to a former payroll clerk about
the Gholston Fund reimbursement," wrote Fitzpatrick, summarizing
the investigation to the BOE. "Without authorization, a
former payroll clerk in the central office used Mr. McCannon's
signature stamp to approve monthly salary supplement schedules
during this school year....The investigation has confirmed by
three sources that this same former payroll clerk has her tanning
bed bill paid by Mr. Almond."
The September memo from Almond to Fields regarding the Gholston
Trust supplements states that he was to receive an $11,000 "supplement
for principal." Two other employees were also to receive
$1,500 from the Gholston Trust for "supplement for technology"
and "supplement for staff development."
Almond wrote McCannon Feb. 27 to explain the supplements.
"Since 1973, the Gholston Estate has provided funds for
Comer Elementary," wrote Almond. "And every year since
1973, usually in March, the Comer Elementary principal submits
a budget (salaries, supplements) for the next school year to
the Gholston Estate for review, modification, approval. The principal
of Comer Elementary then shares this with the superintendent
of schools. This has been the method of operation with Mr. James
Means, Mr. Jim Perkins and myself."
Fields wrote a letter to the editor this week (see page 10A)
in which she declared that she had acted appropriately and was
wrongly fired by McCannon.
According to Fitzpatrick's report to the BOE, the investigation
of Almond continued through March 16. Twenty people were interviewed
and 3,385 documents were reviewed.
The report concludes that "since June 5, 1999 Mr. Almond
has written himself reimbursement checks totaling $11,675.52."
McCannon wrote Almond March 9 to explain his suspension of the
principal. Among the reasons given were that Almond's "excessive
reimbursements for this school year indicate a pattern of your
(Almond's) personal abuse of school funds."
"Sales receipts provided by (Almond) indicate (Almond) purchased
items...for personal use with school funds," wrote McCannon.
A large portion of the approximately 150 pages of evidence against
Almond concerns reimbursements to the former principal. The report
says Almond wrote himself $6,175.95 in checks during the 1999-2000
school year, with no receipts to back up any checks.
Fitzpatrick wrote that in addition to these checks, records turned
over by Almond reveal other reimbursement checks written by Almond
to himself of $1,588 (June 5, 1999), $1,806 (Aug. 14, 2000),
$1,197 (Nov. 14, 2000) and $908 (Jan. 16, 2001). Receipts were
turned in to back up these checks.
The receipts reveal that the reimbursements are for a variety
of items - school supplies, movies, books, cleaning equipment,
candy, garbage disposal fees.
McCannon wrote that a school janitor would testify that he "does
not remember using many of the cleaning and hardware supplies
for which (Almond) submitted receipts."
The investigation report also states that a receipt from Sam's
Club dated Nov. 25, 2000, was for the purchase of four scooters
and a utility bike. Another Sam's Club receipt dated Dec. 19,
2000, includes a fifth scooter.
"The investigation revealed four scooters were in the building
for Christmas prizes," wrote Fitzpatrick. "No bike
was on campus until the first interviews (in the Almond investigation)
were conducted on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2001. A bicycle appeared
in the building some time after Feb. 28, 2001. The bike has been
The report also states that two vacuum cleaners Almond received
reimbursement for - one purchased in 1998 and another in July
of 2000 - appeared in the building "some time after the
first interviews were conducted on Wednesday, Feb. 28."
A copy of a check written to "petty cash" by Almond
for $300 is also included in the investigation packet. McCannon
said in his letter to Almond that there is no "petty cash"
account at Comer Elementary and that another school employee
would testify to that fact.
The packet includes a letter to auditors written by Almond sometime
after May 10, 1999, in which the principal explained how he views
"Our school has private funding and part of the funding
is for school supplies and materials," wrote Almond. "However,
because the private trust fund receives their income from investments,
the amount of funding to our school for a supply fund can vary
from year to year. As principal, I would purchase items for school
and would hold the receipt until the end of the school year to
ensure that funds from the private trust would be available for
reimbursement. If funds were not available, I would of course
not ask for reimbursement."
Fitzpatrick's report and McCannon's letter to Almond regarding
his suspension also suggest that Almond was not cooperative in
assisting in their inquiries about school finances.
According to Fitzpatrick's report, McCannon and assistant superintendent
Jimmy Minish went to Comer Elementary School on Friday, Feb.
23, and requested the school's financial records for the past
Almond turned over 18 items on that day and seven documents March
7, but many financial records were unaccounted for. And Almond
said records had been discarded during renovations.
"In his conversation with Mr. McCannon...Mr. Almond stated
custodian Michael Simmons accidentally threw away financial records
when carpet was installed during the summer of 1998," wrote
Fitzpatrick. "An inspection of the vault reveals it is not
carpeted....In an interview with Mr. McCannon, Mr. Simmons denied
he threw away any records."
The allegations also indicate that Almond threw away financial
records and billed the county for the expense of disposing of
"Receipts you submitted show that during the summer you
claim the financial records were accidentally thrown away, you
threw away school records at the Madison County Transfer Station,"
McCannon wrote to Almond. "Receipts you submitted show that
you have thrown away school property without authorization."
Almond sent a letter to McCannon on March 6, saying that he could
not locate financial records from last year.
"I have not been able to locate the financial records from
last year," wrote Almond. "They were stored in the
school vault with the 98-99 records. I can only assume they are
missing since many people have access to the vault."
According to the investigation report, when asked about the whereabouts
of the 1999-2000 records, another Comer employee stated that
she had "seen those records in the vault in the fall of
According to the report, floppy disks containing financial information
were missing, as well as financial records kept in filing cabinets.
Also, the report states that after McCannon interviewed custodian
Simmons, "Mr. Almond instructed Mr. Simmons to take filing
and other cabinets to Mr. Almond's home."
"Mr. McCannon learned of this instruction and countermanded
it," Fitzpatrick wrote.
McCannon's letter to Almond also states that the school has a
history of bad financial management. He wrote that audits show
that Comer was over budget in fiscal years 81, 82, 91, 93, 95,
97 and 2000.
He wrote that the school bookkeeper will testify that "before
she was assigned the duty of keeping books, creditors called
the school because of past due bills."
The report also states that $2,630 was spent on Cokes and snacks
for the teachers' lounge in 1999-2000. But only $1,020 was deposited
for the sale of items in the lounge for the year.
McCannon wrote that four employees of Merchants and Farmers Bank
will testify that Almond would bring quarters into the bank to
exchange for cash.
The interim superintendent wrote that a bank employee said that
Almond asked tellers to cash checks made out to "Comer Elementary."
The bank employee said that Almond on occasion sent red velvet
cakes to bank employees "until the bank ceased cashing checks"
for Almond made out to the school. McCannon also wrote that a
woman would testify that Almond often purchased red velvet cakes
from her using a Comer Elementary check.
McCannon wrote that Almond submitted a request to attend a conference
in Macon, which cost the school district $150, but did not attend
the conference. McCannon wrote that four county principals would
testify that Almond was not at the conference.
McCannon wrote that a Comer school employee would testify that
Almond falsified his sick leave and personal leave and instructed
the employee to "falsify teachers' sick leave."
The interim superintendent also wrote that Almond frequently
missed school and could not properly carry out his duties.
"Because of your frequent absences from Comer Elementary
School, you are neglecting your duties as the leader of Comer
Elementary," wrote McCannon to Almond.
Fitzpatrick said that several copies of the approximately 150-page
investigation packet have been made. The documents are public
record - government agencies may charge up to 25 cents per copy
for records. The first 10 pages summarize the allegations against
Almond with the remaining documents supporting those allegations.
Contact the school board office at 795-2191 for more information.
Go to Madison
Public Meeting Dates
"After nearly 30 years of service to the Madison County
School District, I have this date tendered my resignation from
employment with the district. Given the allegations which have
been made against me by the acting superintendent of schools,
it is obvious to me that I can no longer successfully function
as an employee of the Madison County Board of Education or as
the principal of Comer Elementary School. While I have denied
the allegations, nevertheless, it also became apparent to me,
despite the best efforts of those who have supported me, that
I would not be retained by the school district.
"I want to thank each and every teacher who has worked for
me, the parents who have supported me and the many young people
whom I have had the privilege to educate and supervise over these
many years. I will greatly miss the faculty and other school
employees, the children and the parents at Comer Elementary School.
"My present plans are to retire and seek alternative employment.
Again, I want to thank all those who have supported me, and I
trust they will understand that I have made a decision which
I think is in the best interest of all concerned."
- Robert "Mac" Almond
We back Mac!
Large crowd shows support for long-time Comer principal
At least 300 Comer parents packed the Madison County High School
library Tuesday night to support suspended Comer Elementary School
principal Mac Almond. The popular educator has resigned following
charges including incompetence, insubordination and willful neglect.
Wearing T-shirts declaring "We Back Mac," the protesters
presented speaker after speaker who testified to the love and
respect the parents, teachers and students of Comer Elementary
feel for their principal.
Beth M. Scott-Brown accused the board of failing to properly
inform parents of the action.
"A simple note to (parents) would have eliminated misunderstandings,"
she said. She insisted that parents have a right to know what
is going on in their school.
Scott-Brown also questioned the timing of the action. She told
the board that the suspension two weeks before a major test was
not in the best interest of children or faculty. She closed by
reminding the board that "you were elected to represent
Patty Irvin described the love the children have for Mac Almond.
She told of his efforts to encourage each child, noting that
he knew each of them by name.
Retired teacher Margaret Burroughs reminded the board that she
had taught each of them along with acting superintendent Allen
McCannon and board attorney Lane Fitzpatrick.
"I loved you then and I love you now, no matter how this
comes out," she said. She then described her family's lengthy
relationship with Mr. Almond, concluding that Mac Almond's heart
is with Comer Elementary."
Anne Burroughs questioned the style of interrogation, suggesting
that county officials had engaged in "zealous prosecution
designed to intimidate." She challenged the board to consider
the timing of the investigation, whether Mr. Almond was given
due process and whether uniform policy was being applied.
Doug Wood said that the children of Comer were devastated by
Janice Gilley described her arrival at Comer Elementary in the
third grade. "Mac took me under his wing and made me feel
like I belonged," she said.
"My kids think he is the greatest, and I agree," she
said. "He always went above and beyond his duties."
Don Mosley of Jubilee Partners reported a conversation he had
with Mr. Almond.
"I asked him if the board offered him an opportunity to
finish out the school year how would he respond."
"In a heartbeat," was his answer. Mosley urged the
board to allow Almond to complete the school year then begin
a careful search for an "equally caring replacement."
After her daughter Chancie reminded the board that "we all
make mistakes," Anita Cochran presented a petition containing
550 signatures asking that Almond be reinstated.
Leah Mattison, Comer school counselor, told the board that many
students are confused and upset by Almond's absence.
Jena Smith rushed back from an out-of-state trip to support Almond.
She described her arrival in Comer two years ago and the way
Almond welcomed her children and made them comfortable in their
new school. She questioned the lack of communication between
the board and parents.
"I do not feel like I am part of the school," she said.
The audience demanded that the board reconsider the action against
Almond. They asked when the board would have another meeting
to consider their requests. BOC chairman Robert Haggard responded
that Mr. Almond's resignation puts an end to the matter and no
further action was expected. The audience objected to this, insisting
that their concerns be addressed. The board did not respond.
When the audience pressed for answers, Fitzpatrick said that
he had instructed the board not to answer questions for legal
reasons. Haggard told the audience that if they set up a meeting
of their own, he would come to answer what questions he could.
At one point, members of the audience displayed their anger and
sheriff's deputies quietly walked among the crowd to cool tempers.
After the meeting, the Comer PTO officials decided to call a
special meeting on Monday, March 26, at 7 p.m. in the Lions Club
Margaret Burroughs cautioned the group to be "very careful."
"The (the Board of Education) are doing what they think
is right, and we are doing what we think is right," Burroughs