Freddie Gray makes it official, steps down from Omaha school board - Omaha.com
Published Thursday, January 24, 2013 at 12:00 am / Updated at 4:11 pm
Freddie Gray makes it official, steps down from Omaha school board

The resignation Wednesday of Freddie Gray from the Omaha school board elevated Marian Fey to the board's presidency. It also will set up a process to fill the board vacancy.

Gray submitted a three-page resignation letter, two pages of which listed her accomplishments.

Her departure capped a stormy year marked by two superintendent searches, and a failed vote last summer to remove Gray as president over her handling of the Nancy Sebring email controversy.

Gray had been re-elected the school board president as recently as Jan. 7, but it required 30 rounds of voting.

The Omaha Public Schools board accepted her resignation at its regular meeting and praised Gray for her work.

“I also want to thank Mrs. Gray for her service, not just on the Board of Education, for all she has done and I'm sure will continue to do,” Fey said.

With Gray's departure, Fey automatically became the board's president. The board then elected Mary Morrissey as vice president in one round of voting.

Gray, who did not attend the meeting, has taken a position with a new company, according to the resignation letter. She did not specify the company.

She said the position would not allow her to continue performing her duties as a school board member effectively.

Among her accomplishments, Gray listed helping the district improve its graduation rate and including the community in the board's recent superintendent search.

Reached at her home Wednesday afternoon, Gray declined to comment.

“This is my house,” she said. “I have no need to talk to you.”

In the letter, Gray said: “I have sincerely enjoyed my time in public service and am humbled by the placement of this public trust in my hands by the citizens.”

Before formally accepting the resignation, the board voted to go into closed session with Baird Holm attorneys P. Scott Dye and David Kramer to talk about “board processes.”

The board remained in executive session for an hour while about 20 people in the audience waited.

Gray represented north Omaha's Subdistrict 2. State law dictates that the board appoint a qualified registered voter to take her spot on the board.

Gray had been president since January 2012. She was appointed to the board in 2008, elected later that year and re-elected in November to another four-year term.

In August, Gray survived a vote to remove her from the presidency over her handling of the Sebring matter.

Gray and the board's legal counsel didn't tell other board members that Sebring, the OPS superintendent-to-be, had resigned from her last job after she sent racy emails to her lover on a school district computer.

Gray and the board's attorney said that Sebring kept details of the sexually explicit emails from them and that they considered the situation a personnel matter requiring privacy.

Sebring resigned from the Omaha job when the emails became public.

Board members voted 8-4 to keep Gray as president. Her supporters praised her for reaching out to community organizations and for preparing the district for long-term planning.

Last September, Gray and other board members were surprised by a $1 million retirement payout to Superintendent John Mackiel.

The payout was written into Mackiel's contract years ago, but board members and the district's finance staff were caught off-guard by the amount.

And earlier this month, the board apparently violated a state law by not swearing in its new board members “before the first Monday in January,” as state law prescribes.

Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine has said he will look into whether OPS violated state law.

Besides OPS issues, Gray and her husband, Omaha City Councilman Ben Gray, face financial trouble. As of early this month, the couple owed almost $50,000 to the federal government in back income taxes.

The couple recently agreed to increase how much they pay monthly and plan to have the debt paid off by 2016.

World-Herald staff writer Roseann Moring contributed to this report.

Contact the writer:402-444-1074, jonathon.braden@owh.com; twitter.com/jonathonbraden

* * * * *

Freddie Gray's resignation letter

Contact the writer: Jonathon Braden

jonathon.braden@owh.com    |   402-444-1074    |  

Jonathon writes about education, mostly the Omaha Public Schools, Nebraska's largest district.

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