Wednesday, July 17, 2024

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Graham, NC 27253
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Butler OUT as ABSS superintendent

The Alamance-Burlington school board has agreed to accept the resignation of superintendent Dr. Dain Butler after less than two years at the helm, following a particularly tumultuous eight months since last June, as he started his second year.

The board voted today to pay Butler a total of one year’s salary ($218,400) – $116,362, a little more than half his annual salary, plus $102,038 in severance pay. They also agreed to allow him to pay for his health insurance through COBRA for another 12 months.

See related story about the use of fund balance, the school system’s savings, to finance severance:

One financial footnote in the “Resignation Agreement” is that $116,362 will be paid only after the financial audit for the 2023-2024 school year is completed and it is determined that there are sufficient funds to pay the settlement amount.

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The vote was 5-2, with the dissenting members – Ryan Bowden and Seneca Rogers – objecting to the financial terms. Voting in favor were chairman Sandy Ellington-Graves, vice chairman Donna Westbrooks, and members Dan Ingle, Chuck Marsh, and Dr. Charles Parker.

Butler’s standing had fallen over the past year; when the board reviewed his first-year performance last May, they were so pleased that they granted him a 10.5 percent raise, or $20,800, thereby raising his yearly salary from $197,600 to $218,400.

School board members also unanimously agreed that Butler’s performance during his first year on the job merited a $5,000 bonus, which Butler declined to accept.

The school board members met in a closed session Monday morning beginning at 10:00 a.m. and made the announcement after they emerged at about 11:50. It marked the third school board closed session for personnel discussion, totaling more than eight hours, over the past 10 days.

Dr. Kristy Davis, the chief student services officer, was appointed as the acting superintendent by a unanimous 7-0 vote.

Dr. Kristy Davis, the chief student services officer, who has been elevated to serve as acting superintendent.

Butler, 47, did not appear to be present.  He was not in the auditorium nor the adjacent room where closed meetings are held when the open portion of the school board meeting began at 10:00. His resignation is effective at the end of the day.

His resignation here marks the second consecutive school superintendent post where he has resigned in the face of mounting school board dissatisfaction.

Butler had resigned under similar circumstances from his last superintendent’s post with the Roanoke Rapids Graded School District in Halifax County.  In that case, Butler resigned on September 1, 2021, and his resignation took effect at the end of that month; he remained on paid leave until his resignation took effect.

Butler received a severance payment of $152,680.77, plus continuing coverage of his COBRA health insurance for up to 18 month, The Roanoke Rapids Daily Herald reported at the time.

He then worked in Guilford County as a central office administrator in charge of principal development.

After a relatively quiet and uneventful first year (he began his tenure July 1, 2022), Butler hit a number of headwinds, both in the community, among ABSS parents, and with the county commissioners since June 2023.

Among the highlights of the controversial past year:

  • During a county commissioners’ meeting last June 19, Butler made a last-minute plea for $867,930 in additional funding for the school system, after having previously seemingly signed off on preliminary funding levels penciled in by the county manager. That additional amount also caused commissioners to up the proposed tax rate (from 43 cents to 43.2 cents per $100), with only chairman John Paisley, Jr. voting against the higher amount.
  • It was at that same meeting that Butler publicly said he had  recorded individual conversations with each county commissioner in his office during which, he claimed, they had each voiced support for higher teacher supplements.  Later that week, when The Alamance News filed a public records request for access to the tapes, Butler later told the newspaper he no longer had such recordings.  He never apologized to the commissioners for the secret recordings.
  • Then in a series of revelations in August and September, the school system said it had found mold in more than 30 schools, ultimately costing more than $20 million in cleanup and delaying the beginning of the school year by two weeks.
  • Some commissioners were particularly critical of the failure to get competitive bids for some of the cleanup efforts, as well as the seemingly open-ended nature of the contracts the school system entered into.
  • Butler’s firing of Southern High School football coach Fritz Hessenthaler last November on the day of the team’s first playoff game, which upset players and parents in the Southern zone.
  • Commissioners were also critical of a statement put out by the school system after January 9 storms rolled through the county, in which the school system blamed the commissioners for inadequate funding for school roofs, several of which leaked with the heavy rains.
  • Commissioners responded by outlining a timeline of the millions of dollars they had allocated to ABSS for roof replacements and repairs over the past four year, most of which had not yet been spent by the school system. Chairman Paisley has said that under Butler the school system tends to initiate publicity stunts before it actually approaches the commissioners with funding needs.
  • Most recently, earlier this year, Butler suddenly projected a $3.2 million budget deficit for the current fiscal year (that ends June 30) and set about notifying 24 employees their jobs would end and another 30 that their pay would be reduced (basically changing their salaries from a 12-month basis to a 10-month pay schedule).
  • Meanwhile, state senator Amy Galey had asked the Joint Legislative Commission on Governmental Operations (“Gov Ops”) to investigate the Alamance-Burlington school system’s policies and financial decisions.
  • It was after being interviewed by that commission last week, that chief finance officer Kim McVey is said to have submitted her resignation/retirement to the superintendent; he is said to have declined to accept it, but then turned around and fired her on Sunday.
  • On Monday(Feb. 1, he designated deputy superintendent Lowell Rogers to assume the financial duties, but that plan was soon aborted when Rogers was charged by the State Bureau of Investigation with having failed to report to law enforcement about a sex crime involving a 7-year-old boy. He has been placed on leave.
  • Then, on Thursday (Feb. 22), he said he had found enough money, $4.6 million, to keep all employees and would not need to end any of the several specialty programs that he had put on the chopping block.
  • Although in that same announcement, he said he would be eliminating the school system’s virtual school, which has set off another firestorm of opposition from parents of the students who still “attend” that school.
  • Then at last Monday’s school board meeting (Feb. 25), that amount of “found” money had been reduced to $2.7 million. And he said he regretted having announced the termination of the virtual school.

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