School & District Management

Lawsuit Targets Management of Black Educators’ Group

By Catherine Gewertz — December 13, 2005 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The original founder of the National Alliance of Black School Educators has sued the organization, contending that its executive director should be removed from office because he has mismanaged it.

The lawsuit, filed last month by Charles D. Moody, represents the latest turn in a dispute within the Washington-based organization, which was formed 35 years ago to support African-American youths and educators. This fall, the group’s then-president, founders, and several of its former presidents raised concerns about the group’s financial management.

At the alliance’s annual fall conference last month, members were treated to two presentations on its fiscal situation: a critical one by its then-president, and a reassuring one by its executive director, Quentin R. Lawson. Each reportedly drew a standing ovation.

Mr. Lawson, who has been the executive director since 1997, said in an interview earlier this month that concerns about the organization’s finances are unwarranted.

He said the group’s most recent audit showed that as of the end of 2004, it had $1.3 million in long-term investments. The organization’s only debts, he said, are its mortgage and current bills. As of last month, for every dollar that the alliance owes, it has $2.70 in assets, he said.

Concern over the alliance’s finances was generated largely by the circulation of erroneous information, he said.

“Churches have problems. PTAs have differences. So it is with organizations,” Mr. Lawson said. “We’ll have differences of opinion.”

Deloris M. Saunders, whose two-year term as president expired last month but who still sits on the alliance’s board, contends that the audit is misleading because it includes only limited data. She said that the group has years of accumulated debt, and that the 110 paying affiliates it had in 1997 have dwindled to 85. The alliance’s sale of stock to pay bills in July, she said, is a sign of how its troubles are undermining its mission.

“We didn’t buy stock to pay overdue bills,” Ms. Saunders said in an interview. “We bought stock so NABSE could invest in programs, and children, and staff development. That’s our mission.”

Mismanagement Alleged

In a Nov. 4 lawsuit filed in Washtenaw County circuit court in Ann Arbor, Mich., Mr. Moody, a University of Michigan vice provost emeritus who remains a member of the alliance’s board of directors, and his son, C. David Moody Jr., who was until recently a board member and the chairman of the group’s audit committee, demanded that Mr. Lawson be removed from office for alleged breach of fiduciary duty. They also want “complete access” to the group’s books and records.

The Moodys said in court papers that because of a “pattern of irresponsible spending and financial mismanagement” by Mr. Lawson and 16 of the 23 board members, “the fiscal condition of NABSE has deteriorated to the point that its mission has been neglected and its future is threatened.”

The organization sustained operating losses in 2003 and 2004, and had to liquidate $265,000 in stock to pay past-due bills, the lawsuit contends. It plans to borrow against its capital assets to meet operating deficits, and last spring, its Capitol Hill headquarters was put up for auction for failure to pay property taxes, according to court papers. The sale was nullified when the bill was paid.

The organization’s $2.3 million annual budget comes largely from conference revenues, member dues, grants, and corporate sponsorships. Mr. Lawson reports its current membership as 4,700, but Ms. Saunders contends it is closer to 3,000.

David L. Snead, the superintendent of the Waterbury, Conn., schools and the chairman of the alliance’s superintendents’ commission, said he has faith in the group’s leadership.

“I have no question in my mind that things are going well in the organization,” he said. “I think all of this is a healthy discussion among the members that will result in a better NABSE.”

Hugh Scott, an alliance co-founder who is a scholar-in-residence at the school of education at Pace University in New York, said he was struggling to understand whether the group was being mismanaged or simply suffering the transitory financial squeezes common to many organizations.

“I’m concerned about whether the organization is financially solvent or not,” Mr. Scott said. “I have different people calling me giving me different stories.”

Events

English-Language Learners Webinar Helping English-Learners Through Improved Parent Outreach: Strategies That Work
Communicating with families is key to helping students thrive – and that’s become even more apparent during a pandemic that’s upended student well-being and forced constant logistical changes in schools. Educators should pay particular attention
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Mathematics Webinar
Addressing Unfinished Learning in Math: Providing Tutoring at Scale
Most states as well as the federal government have landed on tutoring as a key strategy to address unfinished learning from the pandemic. Take math, for example. Studies have found that students lost more ground
Content provided by Yup Math Tutoring
Classroom Technology Webinar Building Better Blended Learning in K-12 Schools
The pandemic and the increasing use of technology in K-12 education it prompted has added renewed energy to the blended learning movement as most students are now learning in school buildings (and will likely continue

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management Q&A School Libraries and Controversial Books: Tips From the Front Lines
A top school librarian explains how districts can prepare for possible challenges to student reading materials and build trust with parents.
6 min read
Image of library shelves of books.
mikdam/iStock/Getty
School & District Management Opinion ‘This Is Not What We Signed Up For’: A Principal’s Plea for More Support
School leaders are playing the role of health-care experts, social workers, mask enforcers, and more. It’s taking a serious toll.
Kristen St. Germain
3 min read
Illustration of a professional woman walking a tightrope.
Laura Baker/Education Week and uzenzen/iStock/Getty
School & District Management Letter to the Editor Educators Must Look to History When They Advocate for Changes
Educators and policymakers must be aware of the history of ideas when making changes in education, says this letter to the editor.
1 min read
Illustration of an open laptop receiving an email.
iStock/Getty
School & District Management Letter to the Editor Reconsidering Causes of Principal Burnout
The state and federal governments are asking us to implement policies that often go against our beliefs, says this letter to the editor.
1 min read
Illustration of an open laptop receiving an email.
iStock/Getty