Anderson Community Schools’ $164,000 severance, announced this week, with former Superintendent Tim Smith might seem overly generous at first glance.
The dollar amount of the agreement, however, is less troubling than the school district’s timing and lack of a detailed public statement about why it was compelled to jettison Smith.
The former ACS boss’ windfall seems less exorbitant when you consider other reported settlements school corporations have reached with lame duck superintendents.
• The St. Paul, Minn., school board in 2016 approved a $787,500 severance for Superintendent Valeria Silva, who had two years left on her contract. The agreement included the district’s 15-month retention of Silva as a consultant.
• A year earlier, Hillsborough County, Fla., fired superintendent MaryEllen Elia, whose severance package was more than $1 million.
• Lee’s Summit Schools in Missouri agreed in 2016 to pay superintendent David McGehee, who had been on administrative leave, an estimated $450,000. McGehee had signed a three-year contract with the board not long before he was fired.
• The school board in Howard County, Maryland, approved a whopping $1.65 million severance to secure Renee Foose’s resignation with three years still remaining on her contract. According to a report in the Baltimore Sun, Foose would have received less money in salary if the school district had retained her.
• In 2013, Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent Eugene White received a five-year severance package worth more than $619,000 after new members were elected to the school board.
• And in 2011, the superintendent of the school district in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, received $542,000 — an amount reportedly equal to two years’ salary and the mortgage on his home — to leave his post.
Of course, some school systems have paid less to remove superintendents.
Greg Briles, who was under fire after allegations that money had disappeared from Delphi Schools’ budget, last year received $42,000 to end his employment and $10,000 to cover attorney fees.
No such accusations accompany Smith’s departure from Anderson Community Schools. He was placed on administrative leave in March when the school board voted to fire him without clear explanation to the public.
“It just becomes a matter of separation of vision and leadership and where we want the corporation to go, compared to where he’s at,” school board President Patrick Hill said.
If the board had waited a year, Smith’s contract would have run out and, presumably, he could have been removed without a severance package.
Instead, the board will hire a new superintendent and probably pay a similar salary to what Smith was earning — $142,000. Plus, unless Smith takes another job, the district will be on the hook for his $164,000 severance pay.
ACS’s buyout of Smith isn’t lavish compared to some other superintendent severances; however, in the absence of a better public explanation of why the district was in such a hurry to get rid of him, it looks like rash decision making without due regard for the cost to taxpayers.