COVINGTON — The Newton County Board of Education has approved a settlement that allows a deputy superintendent and a principal to be released from their contracts early. However, the legality of the vote has been called into question.
Sherri Davis-Viniard, director of Public Relations at NCSS, said Thursday that the board members earlier this month approved the release of Dennis Carpenter, deputy superintendent for Operations, and LaQuanda Carpenter, principal of Alcovy High School, from their contracts in a settlement between them and the Newton County Board of Education, effective this week. The school system announced the settlement Wednesday afternoon.
“The board did vote on the settlement per accepting the superintendent’s recommendation in the executive session of Jan. 15, 2013. The vote during the regular meeting of the BOE was unanimous,” Viniard said.
Neither the settlement nor the employment changes were mentioned on the personnel sheet with other system employee changes provided after the meeting, nor were they explicitly mentioned during the meeting.
“My view is that the way the Board of Education voted on the settlement did not comply with the law,” David Hudson, attorney for the Georgia Press Association, said Thursday. “Under O.C.G.A. § 50-14-1(b) and § 50-14-2(e)(2)(B), the minutes must reflect the nature of what is voted on and who voted for and against each motion. Simply voting on a generic ‘recommendation of the superintendent’ is not sufficient disclosure.”
NCSS Superintendent Gary Mathews said Thursday that he advised BOE Attorney Kent Campbell of the matter.
“Naturally, we will follow his legal advice,” Mathews added.
The Citizen is awaiting a response to an open records request from NCSS regarding documents related to the settlement. On Wednesday, NCSS would not respond to a question of whether the settlement cost the system anything, saying it was a personnel matter and no additional information would be released.
Hudson said the settlement documents are open records.
“There have been two cases previously, one in federal and one in Superior Court, and in both instances it was held that such settlement documents must be made public,” he said.
By law, NCSS has three days from Wednesday afternoon to respond to the request.
The school board won’t decide until later this month how to fill a void for a deputy superintendent position and a high school principal position.
School board Chair Abigail Coggin said Mathews must present personnel recommendations to the board for approval.
Mathews said Thursday 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. Mathews is scheduled to retire July 1.
Meanwhile, Mathews said, Jan Loomans, director of Operational Services over maintenance and school nutrition, and Mike Barr, director of Support Services over transportation, procurement and construction, will now meet with the system’s Executive Leadership Team on a regular basis beginning Feb. 4 during the interim period between now and the selection of a new superintendent.
“Oversight of the functions in operations can be shared with me during the next few months,” Mathews said.
Also, Mathews plans to recommend to the school board that acting Alcovy Principal Vic Lee, who has been working at the school since November while LaQuanda Carpenter was on maternity leave, remain at the school for the rest of the school year.
“Because of his current retirement status and Georgia (Teacher Retirement System) rules, he can only continue at AHS as a part-time employee,” Mathews said.
Lee retired as principal of Liberty Middle School in June.
“I do plan to recommend his part-time status for the remainder of this school year, while adding a part-time acting assistant principal,” Mathews said. “This way, we continue with a successful and experienced head of the school while not sacrificing full-time attention to the school.”
Lee retired from NCSS after 37 years in education. He has 18 years of teaching experience and 19 years of administrative experience.
He began working in NCSS in July 2002 as an assistant principal at Newton High School, where he worked until 2008. He then worked as assistant principal at Sharp Learning Center in 2008 and as acting principal at Sharp until 2009, when he moved to Liberty.
The school board next meets at 7 p.m. Feb. 12 in the Newton County BOE building, which is located at 2109 Newton Drive N.E. in Covington, for a work session.