Spring break wasn’t so relaxing for some Richmond County educators.
When Richmond County schools Superintendent Frank Roberson told members of the media earlier this month that Lucy C. Laney High School Principal Tonia Mason was being investigated by the school board, there were political tremors felt throughout the county.
Let’s first just talk about Dr. Tonia Mason.
According to most insiders within the school system, Mason has an outstanding reputation as a hard worker, strong leader and a fighter when it comes to doing what is best for her students.
Mason has been a Richmond County educator for almost two decades and she worked in some of the toughest schools this county has to offer including Josey High School, Richmond County’s Tubman Education Alternative Center, Academy of Richmond County, Glenn Hills Middle School and Westside High School.
When Mason was selected to head Lucy C. Laney High School as principal about four years ago, she was facing an uphill battle.
As harsh as it is to say, Laney was in shambles when Mason took over.
The school was attempting to implement a $1 million School Improvement Grant geared toward transforming Laney into a high-achieving educational institution, but under former Laney High School Principal Tonethia Beasley, it was chaos.
When Beasley came on board, she replaced about 50 percent of Laney’s teaching staff without discussing any of the changes with the school’s parents or alumni association. Then, she was heavily criticized for bringing the Laney staff on a team-building retreat to the Ritz-Carlton at Lake Oconee that had a price tag of more than $12,450.
When Beasley fell under fire, her grand plans for the high school seemed to quickly fall apart.
After Beasley was reassigned within the school district and Roberson brought Mason in as principal at Laney, it seemed like the school was on the right track.
The community and the alumni association seemed to support the decision. After all, Mason is an alumni herself, having graduated from Laney in 1982.
It was a fresh start for the high school.
But now, four years later, it’s Mason’s turn to fall under fire and rumor has it the result could be devastating.
The Georgia Association of Educators is currently auditing the finances of the Richmond County Association of Educators. It just so happens Mason serves as president of the Richmond County Association of Educators.
Insiders say that the internal investigation by the Richmond County school board has to do with the dues that teachers are paying each month to the Richmond County Association of Educators.
About $50 is taken out of a teacher’s paycheck every month in order to be a member of the organization. Apparently, some teachers wanted out of the Richmond County Association of Educators and even submitted that request in writing, but were allegedly confronted by Mason and apparently told that they had missed the deadline to withdraw from the organization.
However, several teachers claim they had not missed the deadline. Instead, Mason allegedly ignored their requests.
So, the question is: Why?
If those rumors are true, how would Mason benefit from keeping teachers as members of the Richmond County Association of Educators?
This is where the plot thickens and the rumors against Mason become even worse. Because they are still rumors at this point, the Insider will refrain from outlining them, but if they are true, there will definitely be a major political fallout throughout the county.
Who could potentially suffer if this scandal breaks before… oh, let’s say, May 20?
Well, as most Augustans know, there is another person with the last name of Mason who has some serious political aspirations.
Augusta Commissioner Alvin Mason is running for mayor and is thought to be one of the frontrunners with his biggest opponent being state Sen. Hardie Davis.
So, Alvin Mason was married to Dr. Tonia Mason and the two divorced back in 2009.
Who cares, right?
Well, the two remain close.
Since announcing his intentions to run for mayor, Tonia Mason has been cheering him on all the way: singing his praises, attending some of his events and wearing his “Mason for Mayor” buttons.
If Tonia Mason is brought down by scandal, some folks say that Alvin Mason won’t escape unscathed.
And when you’re in a tight race for mayor that will probably end in a runoff, the last thing you need is your last name associated with any wrongdoings.
They always say, “There is no such thing as bad publicity.”
The truth is, yes, there is.
And, unfortunately, Alvin Mason may find out the hard way.