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East Cleveland heated over firing of library director

Kevin Chill Heard | 1/8/2014, 10:50 a.m. | Updated on 1/8/2014, 1:55 p.m.

Community reacts to Sheba Marcus-Bey dismissal

By KEVIN CHILL HEARD

@HOUSEOFCHILL

In the winter of more East Cleveland discontent, tempers are heating up as a result of the controversial firing of the city library’s executive director Sheba Marcus-Bey. Marcus-Bey was fired after less than just seven months on the job.

Several members of the community and even some on the East Cleveland library board want to know how Marcus-Bey could be dismissed without ever having received a performance review.

One member of the board, Terra Turner, spoke out vehemently about what she felt was unjust treatment issued toward the embattled ousted director.

“From my position as a board member, it was more than evident that Sheba was doing an excellent job of leading the library in a culturally progressive and solid business direction,” said Turner. “I am at a loss as to why the four other members of the board voted to dismiss her. I didn’t understand it then and I don’t understand now. I still have not received an explanation for their decision.”

On Monday, Dec. 30, board members William Fambrough (board president), Devin Branch, Charles Bibb and Ed Parker voted to remove the director, while Turner, Leontine Synor and Mary Rice voted in favor of Marcus-Bey keeping her job.

Many on the board are even questioning the time, date and method in which the meeting to remove Marcus-Bey was scheduled.

Marcus-Bey granted the Call and Post an interview after she had retained an attorney, but said that she felt it important that she reach out to the paper out of “being committed to our community and them having access to information.

“I had three goals that I was dedicated to stay on message with for the East Cleveland Library when I became its executive director,” said the recently released leader. “They were to reestablish our credibility, connect with our community and connect with our schools.”

By all accounts Marcus-Bey was well equipped to carry out her mission.

Robert Render III, who had worked with Marcus-Bey for several years in the Cleveland Public Library (CPL) system said that she had a “stellar record” while working in Cleveland. He described her as “no-nonsense” and “very serious.” Render went on to say “East Cleveland Library got a gem when they hired her. She is a uniquely talented Black woman and I was stunned to hear that she had been let go under these circumstances.”

In the 13 years Marcus-Bey worked in the CPL system, she credited now retired CPL administrators Jan Ridgeway and Andrew A. Venable Jr. as her mentors. Venable was the first Black to serve as director of the Cleveland Public Library. He had also served as head of the East Cleveland Library.

“I was tutored in library-ship under Jan Ridgeway and Mr. Venable, and groomed to function as an ambassador to the community,” said the fired director.

In a strange turn of events at the ill-fated Monday meeting, according to person’s in attendance, board president Fambrough called the police to have Marcus-Bey removed from the library, but she was surrounded in support by several community members of the 100 or so people in attendance to prevent the police from removing her from the premises when they arrived. In a scene reminiscent of an old-school civil rights moment, it was reported that the crowd of supporters protecting Marcus-Bey began singing “We Shall Overcome.”