As Buford residents recover from the shock of longtime school superintendent Geye Hamby resigning amid allegations he repeatedly used racial slurs when referring to blacks, the Gwinnett County NAACP has vowed not to let the matter die.
In a statement released the same day Buford City Schools informed parents that former assistant superintendent Joy Davis was named interim superintendent, the NAACP called for an investigation into Hamby’s discipline practices.
“The citizens of the city of Buford, Gwinnett County and nationally have been shocked with Hamby’s apparent hatred of black people,” it said in a written statement released Thursday.
It called for a review of Hamby’s disciplinary actions against employees and students, and of policies the school district enacted during his tenure.
Audio recordings of the racist remarks by someone said to be Hamby are evidence in a race-discrimination lawsuit filed by former paraprofessional Mary Ingram and were made public last week.
School board members said Monday that they hadn’t known about the recordings until a week earlier. When asked why it took so long to act and why Hamby was allowed to resign instead of being fired, board chairman Phillip Beard said they had to follow legal procedures.
“Mr. Hamby’s comments demonstrate racial hatred and bigotry and the Buford City School System will be held accountable if other victims step forward with similar experiences as Ms. Ingram,” said Gwinnett County NAACP President Penny Poole.
Neither Buford City Schools administrators nor school board members could not be reached Thursday for comment.
But the appointment of Davis pleased some Buford parents.
“I have known Joy Davis for a long time and she is one of the nicest people. I have ever met and will serve as a great interim superintendent for the time being,” said parent Patrick Gantt.
Jennifer Martinez has lived in Buford for the past 12 years. With three children in the school system, she’s taking a wait-and-see approach.
“She was Hamby’s right hand,” she said. “I think they appointed her because she knows how Hamby handled things. Mr. Beard said it, his thoughts are that Buford lost a strong leader, still trusted him until his resignation. So this makes me think that they trust Davis ‘cause she will keep doing things Hamby’s way by the BOE (Board of Education) command.”
Davis’ personnel file, obtained by the AJC through an open records request, includes glowing praise by Hamby. “You continue to make a tremendous difference in the BCSS. You are to be commended on your many contributions to the school district. Your ability to “handle things” is impressive and appreciated,” Hamby wrote “… Thank you for friendship, loyalty, and work ethic. You remain very special to me!!!”
In the letter announcing Davis’ appointment, the board listed its collective email address (email@example.com), but not individual email addresses or phone numbers for board members.
“We have already begun to make a concerted effort to create a plan to improve relationships between and among the many cultural groups represented within our schools,” the letter read. “Parent and community participation in our schools will continue to be integral as our community moves forward in providing the best education and environment for our students.”
But several parents sent a letter seeking to cement that promise. It suggested seeking superintendent candidates from “beyond the local community or even the state” and having “a group of diverse parents from each school to sit down with the final three candidates.”