By Bill Short
They took the action Monday night during a special called meeting in the Board Chamber at City Hall.
A motion offered by Chris Denson and seconded by Ronnie Mackin to “unilaterally part ways” with Dr. David Roper was defeated by a 4-3 vote, with Roger Christopher, board Chairman Cody Childress, Vice Chairman C. J. Haley and Larry Jackson dissenting.
Under the terms of Roper’s current contract, the board has the power to terminate it “unilaterally, without cause.”
Section 13, subsection D states that, if it does so, the board must pay the superintendent an amount equal to 18 months of his annual salary with benefits or until the end of the contract term, whichever occurs sooner.
Unless otherwise agreed to by the parties, the superintendent’s salary would continue to be paid on a bi-weekly basis as if he were still employed by the board.
Childress noted that the total amount for 18 months is $235,344.
In his motion, Denson also proposed that Deputy Superintendent Georgia Dawson become the acting superintendent during the interim.
He said that would give the board time to accept applications, conduct interviews and hire a replacement in a “methodical, in-depth and effective manner” without causing interruption to the daily activities and functions necessary to maintain the school system.
During discussion shortly before the vote, Denson said he hears “a lot about communication.”
He noted that, when the new board members were sworn in last December, he asked Roper to “walk” them through the system’s four schools and show them what is good, bad and “what needs work.”
Denson said the superintendent told him that he did not need to do that, because they were “welcome” to walk in anytime they wanted to, and “his employees” would show them anything they wanted to see.
“We weren’t being unreasonable,” he noted. “We weren’t trying to be aggressive. We wanted a relationship.”
Denson said he traveled to Nashville with Childress for the Day on the Hill, but Roper did not sit, eat or go to the Capitol building with them.
“So, in this seat, the communication has been severely affected,” he said. “I don’t have a cause. I have a communication problem that I think we can address.”
Mackin noted that the four new board members have never considered the “buy-out” subsection of Roper’s contract to be anything that they have done. He said that part was written before the current board was elected last November.
Coulter said the board is in a “situation,” because it has not had very much communication. But he called it everyone’s problem.
He said some residents mistakenly think the board members are “stirring the pot” with some of the teachers’ associations. Addressing the teachers in the audience, he said their schools have “great principals,” and they should support them.
“We want the same respect that you get,” he noted, “the same respect that our Central Office gives us.”
Coulter said the teachers also hear about lack of communication, because they have the same problems that the board members do.
“But whether we make a decision good or bad tonight,” he noted, “we’re still going to hold our superintendent accountable. Your principals hold you accountable and make sure you do the right things in the classroom.”
Coulter said everyone has to do a better job of communicating, so they will no longer be in this “situation.”
“We can eliminate a lot of this in our own work sessions,” he concluded. “I say this every week, and I’m going to continue saying it until it improves.”