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APS board candidate faces accusations

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Hayes-Tavares addresses an audience at a school board candidate forum.

On March 18, the Young Middle School Local School Council claimed that current APS Board of Education candidate Shawnna Hayes-Tavares never reimbursed Young Middle School parents a total of $970 the parents had given her for uniforms during a summer camp.

Hayes-Tavares, previously banned from the Young Middle School Parent Teacher Student Association by the Georgia PTA for alleged financial misconduct which occurred during her presidency, is in the midst of a campaign to replace Yolanda Johnson as the District 6 representative. Johnson is not seeking reelection.

Johnson has defended Hayes-Tavares and believes she is the most accomplished candidate to replace her on the board.

“She has 15 to 20 years of experience doing the work the board is supposed to do as a parent and an advocate,” Johnson said. “She is by far the best candidate.”

Johnson said the claims Young Middle School LSC have brought against Hayes-Tavares are “unfounded allegations.”

MISSING MAJORETTE MONEY

Hayes-Tavares held a majorette camp at Young Middle School from July 23 to July 27. On the camp’s flyer, obtained through a member of the Young Middle School LSC, parents were instructed to make out a $150 check to Shawnna Hayes-Tavares for uniforms.

According to the March 18 Young Middle School LSC minutes, Hayes-Tavares collected $970 in full or partial uniform payments from the parents. Hayes-Tavares, however, claims that only four of the 15 girls at the camp paid for uniforms, which would equal $600 if those girls paid in full.

Local School Council Documents_Page_4

Hayes-Tavaes distributed a flyer among parents stating that majorette
uniform payments should be made out to her.

After the majorette team was annexed by the After School All-Stars—a program with grant-provided funding for after-school activities—uniforms were no longer needed and Hayes-Tavares said she did not purchase them. Parents asked for a refund, according to the minutes from the meeting.

Although Kelvin Griffin, the Young Middle School principal, asked Hayes-Tavares to return the $970, she had yet to refund the parents by the meeting on March 18, according to the LSC minutes.

Griffin and Young Middle School decided to make the parents financially whole and reimbursed them.

In an interview with The Southerner, Hayes-Tavares said she doesn’t know why Young Middle School is under the impression the parents were not refunded.

“The girls who didn’t receive uniforms received their money back,” she said. “They received refunds.”

 

Hayes-Tavares did not respond to an email asking her to clarify who refunded the parents.

A parent whose children went to Hayes-Tavares’ camp and spoke on the condition of anonymity said she paid Hayes-Tavares a total of $300 for uniforms her children never received. When asked if Hayes-Tavares reimbursed her, she said flatly, “No, she didn’t.” The parent said Griffin was the one who refunded her $300.

The name Shawnna Hayes-Tavares was not mentioned on any documents obtained through an Open Records request asking for documents showing repayment to parents.

At the meeting, members of the LSC resolved to contact William Scott, APS Director of the Office of Internal Compliance, to start legal action against Hayes-Tavares, according to the minutes. Scott declined comment.

In 2007, Georgia PTA President Leslie Cushman sent a letter to the Young Middle School PTSA officers. "It is the opinion of President Cushman and District Director Perrino that no previous or current officer of Jean Childs Young Middle School PTSA should hold a position in any PTA/PTSA until the matter has been completely satisfied," Cushman wrote.

In 2007, Georgia PTA President Leslie Cushman sent a letter to the Young Middle School PTSA officers. “It is the opinion of President Cushman and District Director Perrino that no previous or current officer of Jean Childs Young Middle School PTSA should hold a position in any PTA/PTSA until the matter has been completely satisfied,” Cushman wrote.

PTA PROBLEMS? 

This is not the first allegation of financial misconduct made against Hayes-Tavares. When she was president of the Young Middle School PTSA, the   Georgia PTA began to investigate the association’s finances. According to the LSC minutes, however, the fact that “all the [Young Middle School] PTA   books/records were stolen” complicated the audit.

On Aug. 31, 2007, Leslie Cushman, a Georgia PTA official, emailed Griffin.

“It is the opinion of President Cushman and District Director Perrino that no previous officer or current officer of Jean Childs Young Middle School PTSA should hold a position in any PTA/PTSA until the matter has been completely satisfied,” Perrino wrote to Griffin.

A Young Middle School LSC member who requested anonymity told The Southerner that at the beginning of the 2011-2012 school year, Hayes-Tavares claimed there was a Georgia PTA letter which cleared her to serve again.

Shortly after this claim, Hayes-Tavares collected gift certificates to be given to teachers for Christmas, according to the March 21, 2012 LSC minutes. The gifts, however, never made it to the teachers.

“[Hayes-Tavares] said she left them on a desk at the school and they were stolen,” the LSC minutes read.

After this incident, the LSC decided to look closer into Hayes-Tavares’ alleged PTA exoneration, the LSC member said.

In response to the inquiry, Sandra Perrino, the 10th District director of the Georgia PTA, sent an email on June 14, 2012, which listed the results of the 2007 audit. The email, which an LSC member gave The Southerner, showed the findings included deposits coming up short and inappropriate use of petty cash, among others. The letter also clarified Hayes-Tavares’ standing with the Georgia PTA.

“Further, Georgia PTA is not aware of a letter exonerating Hayes-Tavares at this time,” Perrino wrote.

The Georgia PTA sent Kelvin Griffin, the principal of Young Middle School a letter stating that they had not exonerated Hayes-Tavares of financial mismanagement when she was president of the PTA at Young Middle School in 2007.

The Georgia PTA sent Kelvin Griffin, the principal of Young Middle School a letter stating that they had not exonerated Hayes-Tavares of financial mismanagement when she was president of the PTA at Young Middle School in 2007.

The LSC member said if the council were aware there was no letter exonerating Hayes-Tavares, she would not have been allowed to handle the gift cards.

“By lying she was allowed to be put in a position of leadership and access to money,” the LSC member said.

Hayes-Tavares addressed the audit under a Frequently Asked Question on her campaign website, which was removed by press time.

“Although this occurred in 2006 and although before that time and after that time for a total of 14 years, I had a pristine PTA leadership record, a few people have made it their mission to use it against me to pay forever for trusting other volunteers to do their jobs as I was trying to do mine,” Hayes-Tavares wrote.

On July 29, 2013, Hayes-Tavares also wrote an email to William Scott, director of the Office of Internal Compliance for APS, in which she claimed that since the audit was completed, the members of the 2006/2007 PTSA should be allowed to serve again.

Hayes-Tavares did not respond to several requests for comment about the PTA ban.

CONTROVERSIAL COMMENTS

After Atlanta Progressive News editor Matthew Cardinale posted a story about the LSC’s accusations against Hayes-Tavares, three comments were posted to the online story within 50 minutes defending Hayes-Tavares.

One of the comments was signed “YoungMS Teacher”, another “T. Madhi” and the third was signed “Terry”, a resident of District 6.

“MY child was a student at [Young] when Ms. Hayes-Tavares was the PTA president [and] she was a knowledgeable, committed, and passionate LEADER,” username T. Madhi commented, in addition to other statements.

Cardinale saw that all three of the comments had the same IP address, meaning that they all came from the same computer. He found it to be Hayes-Tavares’ computer, because it had the same IP address as a comment in which Hayes-Tavares wrote in first person.

Hayes-Tavares said she was picking up her children when the comments were posted. Since her house is her campaign’s headquarters, it is possible campaign volunteers posted the messages from her computer. Cardinale did not find Hayes-Tavares’ claim to be credible.

“APN also sent emails to the [usernames’ emails],” he wrote. “One … bounced back. The other two emails have seen no response.”

‘I’M A PARENT, I’M NOT A POLITICIAN’

For her campaign platform, Hayes-Tavares has focused on improving special-needs programs and increasing parent involvement.

Hayes-Tavares’ campaign expenditures, obtained from the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commision, reveal that of the $4,970 spent by the campaign, almost $2,000 was paid to members of her family. The campaign paid over $1,500 to her husband for management and $400 to her daughter for ‘field operations’. Hayes-Tavares defended her record as an active APS parent.

“I just want to say that I’m a parent, I’m not a politician,”  she said. “I am a product of [APS]. I have four children in [APS]. Again, I am not perfect … but I’ve been a perfect servant.”

8 Comments

  1. Shawnna says:

    This article was written by two Caucasian young men from Grady, one who is the son of Cecily Harsch-Kinnane and the other Josh weinstock. After spending over one hour on the phone with these boys speaking about the racial disparities of GradyHS AND the unwillingness for them to write a story related to black and white student inequities, Mass Communications Academy disparity continues to exist and the condition of APS, they decided to write about lies!

    The PTA has never banned Hayes-Tavares! This is flat out lie. The PTA has paid an all expense trip for Mrs. Hayes-Tavares last September to Washington, DC to attend the Emerging Minority Leadership Conference, she was nominated this past April for the Atlanta Council of PTAs. Immediately following service on the PTA at Young in 2006, served as VP and LSC member at Inman. This are ridiculous. It is apparent that I am a formidable candidate for school board. As I was told in February of this year, these lies and innuendos would be used against me, it did not deter me from my high level of advocacy for children. Can we believe a story written by two white children whose parent was apart of the leadership to destroy black children with the cheating cover-up and anonymous declarations or we can look at a 15 year volunteer record of service to APS, children parents and teachers. I will be writing an open letter to the community on behalf of this misrepresentation. Ask the Young PTA if they banned me from service, when in reality the immediate past PTA president and VP invited me to the table to help do it the PTA way. As far as any misconduct at Young, as the president I expected every other volunteer to do his/her job, the bookkeeper, secretary and a full board of 14 are not named only me. This is shameful for the politics in Atlanta to be filled with this. But what I do know MLK, Ghandi and even Jesus had haters. I would not be doing my job to help the helpless and give a voice to the voiceless if everyone liked me. I am flattered that a regular parent could yield this level of power for the extreme way in which this has been distorted! I know I am on the right track for saving Atlanta’s children. Because if the result of the politicians on the board and in the city yields. 51% grad rate, 1 in 3 black boys graduating and 1 in 4 special needs children graduating. I am doing the right thing. My work with developing CASE Community Advocates for Special Education and the past president of SNAPPS SW & NW Atlanta Parents and Partners for Schools, the over 100 articles written on behalf of my advocacy in reputable newspapers and news stations.

    But remember, all of this was released the week of qualifying a strategic way to scare me away from helping children, but they are not dealing with a scary “negro” they are dealing with a strong black parent of four children, who has volunteered service with proven results-oriented leadership in APS! I am un-bought and un-bossed. Instead of using lies, they will need more than that to stop me for fighting for children! Don’t let the racist, political machine deter you from your common sense, research my work Shawnna Hayes-Tavares + Atlanta Public Schools. I am not perfect, but I am a perfect public servant!

    • Tucker Lancaster says:

      For as long as I have been a reader, the Southerner has never failed to address racial issues fully and without bias. For example, last year they published the exact article you demand in the first paragraph of your comment, concerning the racial disparities between the academies. http://thesoutherneronline.com/frontpage/?p=484

    • Adam Schatz says:

      I find your comments about race unsettling. The reporters don’t mention race at all in their article. Their article doesn’t call anyone a “scary ‘negro'”, and your implication that it does is unnecessary. In fact, the only place on this page that race is mentioned at all is in your comment.

    • Flo Henry says:

      They went easy on you!

  2. APNEditor says:

    How can she say it’s a lie? You posted the documents as PDFs? This is the kind of lack of honesty or logic I’ve been dealing with from SHT for the last few months.

  3. Gentlemen – thanks for reporting on a story that has not received sufficient press to-date. Well done! And you should accept any attacks as an indication that your story hit the mark. Keep up the good work!

  4. Fact Checker says:

    Speaking for the residents of DeKalb, thank you for reminding us we are not the only school system in metro Atlanta chock-full of evil doers.

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