WELLINGTON — Wellington school board member Ayers Ratliff never suspected the Lorain County Joint Vocational School board would be so bold in its accusations against him.
Ratliff said he was blindsided when the board excluded him from an executive session during the April 19 meeting. Board members then returned to open session and approved a resolution of censure against him.
“I was told that I was in real trouble and I said, ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about,’ and they said ‘You’ll find out,’” he said in a phone interview Wednesday.
The censure is symbolic as it carries no disciplinary consequences with it and only serves as a public statement that the board members disapprove of his alleged actions.
Ratliff is one of 13 members of the JVS board. Unlike other school districts where the public elects board members, members of the JVS board are appointed by the associate districts: Amherst, Avon, Avon Lake, Columbia, Clearview, Elyria, Firelands, Keystone, Midview, North Ridgeville, Oberlin, Sheffield/Sheffield Lake and Wellington.
Ratliff has served nine years through nonconsecutive terms representing Wellington on the JVS board and 15 years as a Wellington school board member.
The resolution of censure accused Ratliff of violating the JVS code of ethics and code of conduct, including:
- Openly displaying disrespect and hostility in his interactions with other board members.
- Making intemperate and grossly disrespectful remarks attacking the professional reputation of the superintendent.
- Making unwelcome and insensitive remarks in the presence of female staff members in a manner that could be perceived as sexual harassment.
- Relaying confidential or otherwise sensitive information received in executive session to third parties.
- Attempting to intervene individually without board authorization in individual employee matters and in a pending legal proceeding involving the district.
Ratliff said he recalled some instances where his actions or words were seen as racially insensitive toward JVS Superintendent Glenn Faircloth, who is black.
“Dr. Faircloth says that because I told him that my mother was a Baptist, that I was making him feel racially uncomfortable,” Ratliff said.
Ratliff denied the accusations and all others given to him in the censuring resolution. Ratliff said he requested any written proof of complaints, to which the board refused to answer.
“How am I supposed to answer it if they can’t even tell me what it is?” he said.
JVS school board President Debbi Melda said Wednesday the board received many verbal complaints over the past several years. Melda said she couldn’t share much about the discussion, other than her hopes for reconciliation among the board.
“Our hope is to work in a cooperative and professional manner following the policies at JVS with all board members, including board member Ratliff,” Melda said, citing the closing remarks of the resolution.
Ratliff was the only dissenting vote on July 20 when the board voted to approve a new contract for Faircloth that included an annual salary raise to $130,000 per year and eligibility for pay raises every year. The five-year contract also gives Faircloth an additional $3,000 per year to cover the cost of educational courses plus $500 for textbooks, supplies and fees. The contract stipulates that if Faircloth doesn’t spend the money on educational coursework, it goes into an annuity.
Ratliff reportedly took issue with the contract at a Wellington school board meeting where he released contractual details before the JVS board had voted on it. Faircloth then told a reporter the contract shouldn’t have been released because it had only been seen in executive session and it was not a public document until it is voted on.
Faircloth also told the reporter he believes Ratliff, who is white, has a problem with him because he’s black.
Wellington Superintendent Edward Weber said the Wellington board is preparing to vote May 1 on a resolution of support for Ratliff.
Weber said he didn’t have all the details related to the JVS censuring Ratliff, but vouched for the board member.
“His communication styles may be different to what some others use, but if you examine his intentions, he has a caring heart for children and he would climb mountains for them,” he said.
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