Lawmakers: Augusta YDC needs to be stabilized within 90 days; judge wants former interim director back

Richmond County YDC
Jade Holder, 19, died after being attacked in the Augusta Youth Development Campus. (WRDW-TV / Nov. 9, 2011)
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News 12 at 11 o'clock / Thursday, Dec. 13, 2012

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- The principal was just hired at the Augusta YDC in July. Dr. Brenda James-Ford came from a Spaulding County middle school, but what she did there and failed to do here got her fired.

This comes as the DJJ has now seen three different commissioners and the YDC has seen three different directors.

Lawmakers say time is ticking.

News 12 was there as YDC inmates walked across the stage last year.

Jim Shuler, Department of Juvenile Justice spokesman, said, "DJJ commissioner has announced the dismissal of Augusta YDC school principal."

A little more than a year later, and two principals have been in and out, including Dr. James-Ford.

DJJ officials say when they hired Ford back in July, she never told them she was being investigated, accused of changing grades at a public school in Spaulding County.

DJJ board meeting minutes from 2010 show Dr. Brenda James-Ford said her claim to fame was turning around a non-performing school.

The Ford that News 12 found made headlines in a Griffin, Ga., newspaper. In it, it says Ford is accused of intimidating teachers to change the grades of failing students.

"The children are out there to get an education, the children are out there to get changed and supposed to get rehabilitated, and I think the state needs to put a little more emphasis on that," Juvenile County Judge Doug Flanagan said.

However, the state has stayed tight-lipped until now.

Georgia State Sen. Hardie Davis, D-Augusta, told News 12, "Lawmakers are watching this. I know other members of our legislative delegation have been actively engaged."

Judge Flanagan told News 12, "I've got some concerns about the local facility, I hope they put someone in charge who can make some major changes out there."

Flanagan sends kids to these facilities.

Sen. Davis says the Augusta campus is a sore thumb and has gotten the attention of the governor.

"I'm going to look forward to giving them 90 days, we'll be in legislative session during that period of time, and if there are additional measures that need to be taken, we'll be there and the governor will certainly be there as well," Davis said.

Three months to turn things around at the detention center that now sits leaderless. But, if you ask Flanagan who he wants to see back there, "Gary Jones has been out there as one of the interim directors, and I know when he was out there all of a sudden a lot of the problems went away."

News 12's Sheli Muniz asked, "And you'd like to see him back?"

Flanagan responded, "I like to see him back or someone of his caliber back out there running it."

Flanagan says he wants to see Jones in that spot. Jones was there for 90 days after the beating death in 2011.

DJJ officials say they will announce a new director by the end of the year and they hope to fill the principal spot, too.

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