Huntsville school board president Elisa Ferrell wants Huntsville City Schools and the state school superintendent to censure District 5 board member Pam Hill.
It’s a drastic measure. Censuring a school board representative is a public way of punishing a board member. But, at least at first, a censure cannot limit an individual board member’s ability to carry out duties as an elected official put into office by voters.
Elisa Ferrell is president of Huntsville's School Board. Ferrell is requesting censures of school board member Pam Hill. Ferrell says Hill is a threat to the district's accreditation.
Post from Pam Hill's facebook page
WAAY 31 has uncovered if the situation is bad enough, though, a censure could lead to removal from office. That would happen if local lawmakers get involved.
At the local school board level, Hill faces a reprimand.
At the state level, Hill could be reprimanded. Plus, under some circumstances, the state superintendent could ban Hill from ever serving on any school board in Alabama. She would be allowed to finish her current term.
If the charges against Hill are severe enough, the Madison County legislative delegation could put forth a motion to remove her from office.
Ferrell has started the ball rolling on censuring Hill who is often a thorn in her side. It’s not just Ferrell who feels that thorn. Hill frequently challenges board members, school district leaders and its legal team.
Ferrell has released a letter stating her intent to request a state and local censure of Hill. The school board president tells WAAY 31, “I hate that I had to do this.”
Ferrell tells us a review of the local board brought a reprimand from AdvancED. Ferrell tells WAAY 31 that reprimand stems from board members “failing to self-police.”
AdvacED won’t identify the member or members who got the board in hot water. But, Ferrell tells us she knows it was Pam Hill. Ferrell says Hill got the attention of AdvacEd for violating Alabama Code. She says Hill is accused of walking school hallways as if she were an administrator, contacting vendors and trying to arrange financial or business deals.
Ferrell tells us she’s concerned because every school systems has to be accredited every five years. “This is our five-year mark,” Ferrell told us.
“I would have kept this all confidential,” Ferrell tells WAAY 31. “But, Pam put it all over her facebook page.”
WAAY 31 checked. Hill mentioned the censure complaint as early as Monday. Her facebook post reads, “ELISA FERRELL, HCS BD PRES, has ask (sic) State to Censure me. I don’t know why. The vote is April 19, 2018, 5:30 p.m. 200 White St.”
“Hill tells WAAY 31 News she will have something to say about Ferrell’s move later. For now, though, she is keeping quiet.
In Ferrell’s letter, she writes the board’s attempt at bridge-building in mediation have not brought about “substantive change.”
Now, political dynamite appears to be strapped to what’s left of that bridge.
Ferrell sent her letter and supporting document to members of the Huntsville school board, Huntsville superintendent Matt Akin and Alabama school superintendent Ed Richardson. Ferrell wants a formal censure of Hill for what Ferrell describes as “repeated violations of the School Board Governance Act.” The letter spells out several accusations against Hill.
In addition to her letter, Ferrell also sent a five-page single-spaced document outlining those complaints.
In that document, Ferrell basically accuses Hill of drinking on the job. According to Ferrell, “Ms. Hill is attending meetings in the community, as well as visiting staff in Central Office, in an impaired state; acting eccentrically and emotionally, and slurring her speech.”
Ferrell writes, “In the February 1 meeting, Ms. Hill takes a sip of soda from an insulated Yeti type tumbler and says, ‘it’s just coke.’ Her speech slurs, and she gets up and curtseys. She has behaved in this manner at least half a dozen times in the last 6 months.”
The school board president outlines other concerns about Hill’s state-of-mind.
Ferrell details examples of what she calls Hill’s erratic behavior. One specific example Ferrell cites supposedly happened at December 1, 2016 closed-door meeting. “Prior to the start of an executive session, Ms. Hill told us, and I apologize for the graphic language, that she wanted to chop off the penis of a former employee and hold it in her hands,” Ferrell explained.
When the board’s lawyer explained Hill’s “penis” comment was beyond the scope of the meeting, Ferrell says Hill “hopped out of her chair and stood against the wall, trembling and refusing to sit. When we were on our way back to the board room Ms. (Michelle)
Watkins tried, without success, to calm her down.”
Ferrell says Hill was paranoid for the remainder of the meeting.
Ferrell also writes about an incident at a Teachers Institute at the Von Braun Center. All the school district’s employees were there for the gathering in the fall of last year.
“Ms. Hill was acting erratically during the entire event,” Ferrell details in her complaint. “She started heckling the superintendent, and then the speaker, who had come from Michigan. He was surprised he was being heckled from someone who was sitting on stage and walked over to her. She took the microphone, introduced herself as ‘Pam Hill, School Board District 5’ and then made a deep bow, and waved to the crowd, rotating back and forth from the right to the left. The speaker was fast on his feet and kept going, however it was an embarrassing and unprofessional action for a board member to take towards a guest speaker; especially in front of all 1500 members of our teaching staff.”
Ferrell explains the heckling incident at the VBC was not Hill’s first.
“In the AASB Spring Training Conference in 2017, Ms. Hill heckled the state superintendent while he was speaking,” Ferrell writes.
“Our group was seated further back in the conference room than we usually are, and he didn’t seem to be distracted by the behavior. Ultimately, she was agitated enough that she left the general session.”
Ferrell also complains that Hill has exceeded her authority by visiting schools outside District 5, offering instructional advice to district employees and posting surveys on social media.
Ferrell suggests Hill is on the school board to benefit financially. “On the day she was sworn in she told me she was making $60,000 before she left teaching, and that she needed to make at least $50,000 as a board member,” Ferrell explains. “I told her we made approximately half of what our city council made which ended up being around $15,000 a year. She told me not to block her way in getting a pay increase, so her first goal as a board member was to work on getting herself a 200% + raise.”
School board president Ferrell accuses Hill of repeatedly violating the Governance Act and the Model Code of Conduct. “Her fitness to serve has also come into question,” Ferrell writes. “After a year of mediation, and a year with the Executive Director of the AASB as her personal mentor, she continues to ignore advice, instruction, and Alabama State Code.”
Ferrell suggests Hill is out of control. “She willfully acts outside the parameters of her authority, and her defiance of state code has placed Huntsville City Schools in jeopardy,” Ferrell insists.
Ferrell wraps up her five-page complaint with an ominous assessment of how Pam Hill is affecting the Huntsville City school district. “Ms. Hill has placed the future of our students at risk and may cause the staff of our schools to suffer personal financial loss.”
Ferrell’s letter states Hill has 30 days to respond to the Huntsville school board and to the state superintendent.