COVINGTON — The Newton County Board of Education will pay a top school official and a high school principal nearly $70,000 as part of a settlement.
The Newton County School System released Monday afternoon a settlement agreement between Dr. Dennis Carpenter, deputy superintendent for operations, and his wife LaQuanda Carpenter, principal of Alcovy High School. Last week, NCSS announced that the Carpenters were being released from their contracts that week as part of a settlement.
The Citizen had submitted an open records request for information about the settlement on Wednesday afternoon, after NCSS initially refused to provide further information, saying it was a personnel issue. David Hudson, attorney for the Georgia Press Association, said Thursday that the settlement documents are open records — a case in federal court and one in Superior Court ruled that such documents must be made public.
“The Carpenters shall receive and be paid in lump sum their respective, regular salaries through May 31, 2013, which includes benefits such as health insurance,” according to a letter from school board attorney Kent Campbell to attorney Stephanie Lindsey.
NCSS didn’t originally provide figures of the settlement in a press release, but later answered a question by the Citizen, stating that Dennis Carpenter’s salary from February through May totals $36,760.18 and LaQuanda Carpenter’s totals $28,099.44.
Additionally, NCSS will pay its share of the health insurance premiums up to and through June 30, 2013. The family plan insurance costs $3,649.36, according to NCSS.
“This agreements and the payments of the lump sum salaries by NCSS … resolves any and all claims, disputes and/or causes of actions that may have arisen from their respective employment with the NCBOE,” reads the settlement letter, which was signed by Campbell, NCSS Superintendent Gary Mathews, both Carpenters and Lindsey on Jan. 22.
In October, LaQuanda Carpenter withdrew a pending lawsuit against Newton County Board of Education Vice Chairman Jeff Meadors. saying it was an effort to end divisiveness in the community. She originally had filed a defamation suit in April naming 11 “John Does” who commented about her on the Newton Citizen website; she later added Meadors and dismissed the others.
“This letter as confirmation of agreement to the terms and conditions stated herein shall not become part of the Carpenter’s personnel files, but shall remain confidential not subject to public inspection unless required by court order,” the letter continues.
“While the Newton County Board of Education’s intent has been to keep confidential the personnel matters that come before the body on a routine basis, in the case of the recent settlement with the Carpenters, and in light of recent open records requests, I believe, on advice of attorney, that it is in everyone’s best interest to release the terms of the settlement. Thus, avoiding further time, money, and energy, the settlement is being released,” said school board Chair Abigail Coggin in a press release by NCSS Monday afternoon. “The majority of the Board continues to believe it is in the best interest of the school system and the Carpenters to sever the current employment relationship. This way, the school system can get on with the process of finding their respective successors as well as focusing on the education and safety of our students. And the Carpenters can focus on their move to Missouri.”
Mathews, who is retiring in July, said last week that he has indicated to the board that the new superintendent should make the recommendation to fill Dennis Carpenter’s position or to reorganize departments. Also, Mathews plans to recommend to the school board that acting Alcovy Principal Vic Lee remain at the school for the rest of the school year.
Both Carpenters submitted letters to NCSS requesting release from their contracts on Jan. 22.
“This request comes after much deliberation regarding balancing my responsibilities as a wife, mother and professional,” LaQuanda Carpenter wrote. “I will forever be grateful to the Newton County Board of Education for the opportunities that I have been afforded as the principal of Alcovy High School. Furthermore, I sincerely wish the Newton County School System well.”
She has been principal at Alcovy High School since 2009 and has been on maternity leave since November.
In December, the Hickman Mills C-1 Board of Directors in Kansas City, Mo., finalized an agreement with Dennis Carpenter to begin as the district’s new superintendent effective July 1. He has been with NCSS since February 2008, when he was hired as associate superintendent for Human Resources; he also took leave from NCSS at the end of last year while his wife was on maternity leave.
“Given my upcoming transition to the superintendency in another region of the country, I am requesting to be released from my current employment,” Dennis Carpenter wrote. “This request will allow me the time needed to handle all of the personal and professional facets of this transition. If I can be of assistance to the district during this transition period, do not hesitate to let me know. … Furthermore, I sincerely wish the Newton County School System and the children of Newton County the best.”