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Alma club director dismissed

Boys and Girls Club of Alma is once again without a director.

Marcus Battles, who was hired for the director position in September 2012, was dismissed Sept. 6 by the club’s board for failure to properly follow policies and procedures, he said.

Becky Newton, president of the Boys and Girls Club of Alma Board, refused to comment on the specifics of Battles’ dismissal, but did admit he was no longer with the club.

Battles’ dismissal was strange, he said, considering he had never been presented with the policies and procedures. He added that he also had not been notified of a problem before he was fired.

When asked for a copy of the club’s policies and procedures, Newton first said she was not sure when she would be able to provide it as it may contain discretionary items not available to the public. She said she would have an answer about the document on Friday, but during a follow-up call Friday Newton chose instead to not comment on policies and procedures.

Newton noted that Arkansas is an “at will” employment state, meaning that an employer does not need to show “just cause” to dismiss an employee.

Battles feels a request to improve the club by bringing in new board members he made to the national office may have been a factor in the board members’ decision to fire him.

Battles spoke to Mark Branch, regional service director for the Boys and Girls Club of America, in March about ways to improve the club, he said. With only five members on the Alma board, Battles felt one way to do that would be to find new people to join the board, he said.

“I told him we need more board members and we need competent board members,” Battles said.

Branch mentioned impact team assessments as a possible way to bring in new members, and to determine other needs of the club, Battles said.

While a team showed up a few weeks ago to begin the assessment, Battles said he doesn’t know if it was because of his request or something Branch already had planned.

Branch described the assessments as “tools for strategic planning,” and said they are done every three to four years. Since coming into his position, Branch has been giving assessments to many of the clubs in his region to learn more about them, he said.

Newton dismissed any notion that the impact assessment was intended to find replacement board members. A list of community residents are put forward by board and club staff members, she said, and those people are interviewed to determine a general assessment of what people think of the club and how it can be improved.

“Generally the national office comes in to do that so it’s independent and [the interviewees] don’t feel like we’re trying to manage it,” Newton said. “We want an open and honest dialogue.”

That list can be used to gain ideas of people who might be a good addition to the board, but that is not the goal, she said.

Board positions are voluntary, Newton said, “just like any non-profit. We are always looking for good people to help us.”

Battles felt there were issues between he and the board since he began working as director, he said.

While most clubs have a unit director, executive director and chief professional officer, Battles said, he held all three positions without ever having his job description clearly defined. Battles also described actions taken by the board for the club as an “afterthought,” without any real planning involved.

Though concerned that speaking out about the board’s decision will affect future opportunities in the area, Battles said he wanted people to know he did his best for the club.

“I don’t want this to come out like I’m slamming the board,” Battles said. “I just want people to know I didn’t do anything illegal or wrong; I just wanted what was best for the kids.”

Battles does not plan to challenge the dismissal, and said that it perhaps was best that he leave the club.

“I think it kind of worked out now for me and my family that I move on,” Battles said.

Battles has worked with kids for 16 years, since he and his wife opened their own daycare in 1997 in Oklahoma City. Battles said he was glad of the opportunity to work with area kids, and wanted to thank parents and community churches for their support of him and the Alma club.

Board members hope to hire a replacement for Battles as quickly as possible, but also with effective consideration of applicants, Newton said.

“We are actively looking for a director; we haven’t decided how we are going to approach that yet,” Newton said.

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