Decatur School Board Hires Chairman's Son

Departing Board member John Ahmann opposed the hiring, citing concerns about nepotism.

The Decatur School Board voted Tuesday night to hire Chairman Marc Wisniewski's son for a part-time job, then discussed and tabled a new nepotism policy.

The hiring vote was 3-1, with board member John Ahmann voting against employing Joseph A. “Andy” Wisniewski as a part-time after school program provider at College Heights Early Childhood Learning Center at an annual cost of $5,767.

Andy Wisniewski, a 2006 Decatur High School graduate, is the son of Marc Wisniewski. He is attending Georgia State University and majoring in nursing-pediatrics, according to his father's biography on the school system website. 

Marc Wisniewski recused himself from the discussion and did not vote on the hiring.

Caroline Wood, the system's director of human resources, said the younger Wisniewski was a finalist for one of two part-time After School Program Provider positions posted on July 18.  

Suzanne Kennedy, principal of the College Heights Early Childhood Learning Center, and her hiring team evaluated the candidates and a separate team interviewed those candidates, Wood said.

The team chose Wisniewski without knowing who his father was, Wood told the board. The applicant had experience working with young children as student at Decatur High School working at the Frazier Center, she said.

Ahmann said he was voting not on Wisniewski's qualifications, but on his view that "we need to really push on the issue of family members working for the system."

"I just think in a large employment market in this area, we just have to push ourselves on that," said Ahmann, who is not running for re-election.

Board member Julie Rhame said she understood Ahmann's concerns about nepotism, but noted that the Decatur school system is "the largest employer" in the community. She said she thought the applicant was "extremely qualified," especially after hearing that he plans a career working with children.

The board voted 3-1 to approve hiring the younger Wisniewski, with Rhame, Valarie Wilson and Bernadette Seals voting in favor. Wilson's husband, Carter Wilson, is the school system's athletic director.

Because of the younger Wisniewski's relationship, the board was required by law to consider his hiring in a separate, public vote.

The law, O.C.G.A 20-2-58.1, says "no local board of education shall employ or promote any person who is a member of the immediate family of any board member unless a public, recorded vote is taken on such employment or promotion as a separate matter from any other personnel matter.  Any board member whose immediate family member is being considered for employment shall not vote on such employment."

Later in the meeting, the board reviewed two proposed nepotism policies which would prohibit any employee from directly supervising or evaluating the performance of a member of his or her immediate family. The policy would affect the superintendent, associate superintendent, assistant superintendent, principals and assistant principals.

The policies define immediate family members as a father, mother, father-in-law, mother-in-law, grandparent, brother, sister, child or spouse of the employee, or any relative living in the residence of the employee.

Wood said the system is recommending adoption of the less restrictive of the two proposed policies, which would allow the system to hire or promote a family member, but allow the superintendent to reassign the "immediate family member for evaluation purposes to another administrator." 

The administrator would also be unable to participate in any decision making affecting the family member. The stricter policy would not allow any assignment in which an employee would supervise or evaluate a family member, except for assignments made before the policy was adopted.

Ahmann noted that Decatur is in large urban area, "nestled in between two mega school systems."

"I just don’t think there should be any member of the superintedent's family working for the school system," Ahmann said. "When it comes to future superintendents, I don't think there should be any exception to that."

Currently, no Decatur school system employee supervises an immediate family member, Wood said, although there are several instances in which two family members work for the system. College Heights Principal Suzanne Kennedy is married to Pat Kennedy, director of exceptional student and support services, for example. 

Rhame said she knew of "excellent teachers who are siblings" and many examples of "mothers who have daughters who come here to teach." Such situations would not be prohibited unless they supervised each other, Edwards said.

The board tabled both policies, as well as a proposed policy guidelines on school board campaigns, until the Oct. 11 meeting.


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