AISD Notebook

by Roseana Auten

The abrupt removal of LBJ High School principal Eddie Orum is still very much on the minds of many LBJ parents, as they testified Monday at the regular meeting of the AISD Board of Trustees. A public meeting was held at the campus on October 7 regarding Orum's September 28 reassignment to "administrative duties" in the central office. But the session failed to satisfy the parents' angry demands for clarification about allegations of poor financial management at the school, rumors of tensions between the general population of the campus and the LBJ Science Academy (a highly touted magnet program), and questions about the quality of student performance.

Al Williams, AISD's newly hired executive director of personnel, confirmed that the financial firm of Peat Marwick is aiding in the investigation of "major operational problems" at LBJ. "They're looking into the accuracy of record keeping," said Williams. Rules about due process and confidentiality on personnel matters prevent him or anyone from releasing specific details, he added. "It is my responsibility as personnel director to be the conscience of this district," stated Williams. "I'm not here to destroy anyone's career." The investigation will be completed as quickly and thoroughly as possible, he said, but has declined to name a specific date. The final decision about Orum's future with AISD will ultimately rest with Superintendent Jim Fox.

Orum, who has taken a medical disability leave until November 6, told the Chronicle that he has nothing to fear from an investigation of his management of LBJ. Principal since the 1992-93 school year, Orum is on the last year of his three-year contract. The last evaluation he received from AISD was in June - and was quite positive, he said.

Orum said his reassignment occurred only after he told district officials he wanted documents surrounding the investigation, including a letter he had drafted to the LBJ faculty, to be reviewed by his personal attorney. He believed he would continue as principal while the investigation was being carried out. (Williams, however, said removing a person who is the target of a probe is not unusual.)

The following day, September 28, Orum said, he was informed in a meeting with Fox that he would be reassigned to central administration, pending the outcome of the investigation. Orum insisted that AISD administrators asked him to put in writing that he accepted his reassignment, that he waived his rights of appeal, and that he would not seek to renew his contract. He refused. "I hope this is not a sign of how the district will handle its employees," Orum said. "I'm hoping that due process and justice win out."

Board action included: Tentatively deciding when the bond election will be held. Members voted 8-1 to adopt an election order at the January 24, 1996, work session - which would set the date of the poll for April 13, 1996. Trustee Loretta Edelen abstained from the vote, citing concerns about expenditures on elections. The following month, three single-member district seats will be up for re-election, coinciding with the May 1996 Austin City Council and Austin Community College trustee races. Other trustees were concerned about commingling campaign issues with the bond issue. And AISD executive director of accountability Mel Coleman noted that no particular savings would be achieved by combining the bond issue with trustee races.

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