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School board appoints acting district superintendent

By Staff | Sep 15, 2015

The Lee County School District appointed Dr. Gregory Adkins, assistant superintendent of operations, as the acting superintendent of the district with a unanimous vote, effective Wednesday morning during a special board meeting Tuesday.

Adkins was sworn into office after the 6 p.m. board meeting Tuesday. As of Tuesday night, Dr. Nancy Graham remains employed until Dec. 21.

The board also approved using Graham’s signature for banking transactions until a new facsimile is received.

Board Attorney Keith Martin said the official swearing had to take place before Adkins began performing the duties of superintendent. He said he will begin to negotiate the terms the compensation Adkins will receive, which will be retroactive of the date he resumes responsibilities.

“I didn’t hear anything from Dr. Adkins if he has a minimum, or maximum term that he is willing to serve. If the board would like it to be time certain, you discussed Oct. 16, or some date soon after that, or if you would like to have discretion to terminate the contract upon a certain number of days notice, whether it be three, five, 10 days notice, those are all provisions that can be put into the contract,” Martin said.

Board Chair Cathleen O’Daniel Morgan said the idea is not to lock them into a date on a contract, so if they decide to do something earlier they can, or if they cannot get it done on that date, the contract can be extended.

The board agreed that a five day notice would be appropriate after the board took action of hiring an interim superintendent.

Martin said they also needed a provision in the case that the acting superintendent would like to terminate his employment, which the board agreed would be a 30-day notice.

“I would anticipate that there might be some request for the ability to continue employment after leaving the position of superintendent,” Martin said, adding that it would be based on the discretion of the next superintendent’s recommendation.

Board Member Jeanne Dozier clarified that they are putting Adkins in as a “placeholder” until an interim superintendent is hired.

The contract will be brought before the board at the Sept. 22 board meeting as a good cause item.

Before the decision was made, the board had a lengthy discussion about a “placeholder,” an interim superintendent and a national search for the next superintendent to replace Superintendent Nancy Graham, who has tendered her resignation.

Dozier said the meeting was held to get someone at the helm as quickly as possible following Graham’s decision last week.

“Dr. Graham at first wanted to stay until the 21st of December until today she wants to leave immediately,” she said Tuesday afternoon. “I think it is urgent that we go ahead and allow her to leave immediately and put into place someone that will be in the best interest.”

At the beginning of the meeting Martin spoke about the investigation that is under way into alleged cheating at Dunbar Community School. He said after having conversations with Graham’s legal counsel, with the respect of this matter, there was no request for the investigation to cease.

“There are a couple of issues that I feel that I need to share with you as you consider appointing of an acting or interim superintendent,” Martin said. “In my conversation with Mr. Gonzalez concerning the investigation, he shared with me that he had received information that indicates the possibility that there may be misconduct by other employees with respect to this matter from what he obtained. That being the case, that issue would need to be dealt with by the next superintendent. It really could not be dealt with the present superintendent. It is something that does need to be addressed promptly.”

He said the other issue is obtaining the material that Gonzalez has and providing it to the board. Martin said that may not be the best course at this point.

“If, in fact, there is misconduct by other employees and there is a need for a disciplinary recommendation by the next superintendent, it would be best that, if and when, that occurs, you would not have reviewed information from that investigation that might create an insertion that you are painted biased,” Martin said, adding that the materials that Gonzalez has at this point are only notes that are not public record.

Board Member Pamela LaRiviere said she believes they need to keep their eyes off the documents.

“We don’t know what the notes are going to say and just in the proper way of doing business, for us not to have them, (there) won’t be potential for us to have any bias,” Board Member Steven Teuber said. “We now have a potential that the cloud of misconduct could potentially touch any member of the cabinet.”

Fischer asked, as the proceed in finding an acting and interim superintendent, would it be best not to consider current administrative staff because of that potential.

Martin said although he does not feel compelled to advise the board of who not to consider, he has no issues with any of the assistant superintendents.

Dozier began the conversation about throwing names into the pool for the acting superintendent, which would start the following day.

“I am personally very uncomfortable with picking an interim. If you have names of people I have not met, I am not going to participate in a vote for an interim if I have not met somebody or seen their resume,” Morgan said. “I like going with an internal for just a period of time. We need to look for a suitable interim and to create appropriate understanding like, is the interim going to be eligible for the superintendent search. This is exactly where I was three years ago and that is the extent of my comment on that.”

Teuber said they would come together with a name who would help the district in moving forward. He said he believes the board should offer names that could run the district and hold them in place until an interim superintendent is chosen that would most likely carry them through until the end of the school year.

“I like that idea because it gives us time to come back as a team of what we expect of the individual – whether it’s an activist interim, or a management interim, what specific things we would have them doing for the rest of the year,” Morgan said.

When the board began listing possible interim superintendents, Martin said they would have to continue those conversations during a board meeting. He said the board could not share the lists with each other, or through him when a meeting was not in session.

“If resumes are submitted by someone interested in that position, all the board members can review the resumes. In terms of who can receive those resumes, I would be happy to receive them, but don’t feel qualified to do anything with them at that point,” Martin said about a resume that is submitted independently.

Such names as Dr. Ami Desamours, Doug Santini, Dr. Jane Kuckel, Dr. Erin Harold and Donald Bryant were provided before a consensus was made about Adkins.

“How we are perceived from the community is pretty low. We are sitting here talking about having an interim and then get another interim. I have talked to them about being an interim. I didn’t say anything about being an interim to be an interim,” Dozier said. “That is showing a lack of confidence in that first person.”

A special meeting was set for Saturday, Oct. 17, at 5 p.m. at the district’s headquarters, which will begin the next step of finding an interim superintendent.