Superintendent’s future in ABSS appears uncertain after marathon closed sessions for personnel discussions

Much speculation has continued to swirl throughout the community – and among current and former elected officials – about Dr. Dain Butler’s future employment as superintendent of the Alamance-Burlington school system.

School board members spent a total of six hours behind closed doors, during a 4-hour special-called meeting Friday afternoon and again for two hours Monday night, near the conclusion of their regular monthly “business” meeting.

Butler appeared to have spent at least an hour behind closed doors with the board Monday night, before exiting the school board’s conference room.  School board members continued to meet in closed session with their attorney, Adam Mitchell of the Tharrington Smith law firm in Raleigh, for another hour before reconvening in open session at 12:15 a.m. Tuesday.

Upon reconvening the open portion of their meeting shortly after midnight, school board members voted 5-0 to approve their semi-monthly personnel report.  School board chairman Sandy Ellington-Graves and board member Dan Ingle abstained from the vote because “they have family members on the report.”

After taking no other action, the board adjourned its meeting at approximately 12:22 a.m. Tuesday.

Friday’s special-called meeting – held entirely in closed session to discuss “confidential personnel matters” and to preserve attorney/client privilege – stretched four hours and 15 minutes and ended around 5:15 p.m.

School board members reconvened in open session late Friday afternoon, and voted 6-0 to appoint Melinda Anderson, an accounts manager within the ABSS finance department, to serve as the interim chief finance officer for ABSS following the abrupt departure of CFO Kim McVey the previous weekend.  (Ingle left Friday’s meeting early, which he said this week was due to a “spell” with his blood sugar.)

Numerous sources familiar with the closed-session discussions have told The Alamance News that a majority of the seven school board members are pressing to relieve Butler of his duties.

The Alamance News made a public records request Wednesday morning, seeking emails to school board members from community members that specifically related to Butler’s employment.  That request apparently yielded few emails that were responsive to the newspaper’s records request.

One email, sent by two-term former school board member Allison Gant last Thursday, raised concerns about the state of affairs within ABSS. “ABSS is in crisis, and all in only 18 months of new district leadership,” Gant wrote referring to the general timeframe when Butler took over as superintendent, in July 2022.

On May 2, 2022, Gant had joined then-board member Tony Rose in voting against hiring Butler.  Voting in favor were: school board members Wayne Beam; Ryan Bowden; Ellington-Graves; Patsy Simpson; and Donna Westbrooks.

“I hope each of you [is] weighing the grave state our district is currently in and lead courageously and boldly to do what is best for our students,” Gant wrote in her email to the board.  “Leadership is a privilege to better others.  I fear if change does not occur now, ABSS will never recover.”

The school board’s current chairman, Ellington-Graves, confirmed in a brief phone interview, shortly before the newspaper’s press deadline Wednesday night, that she had received “100s of emails about the challenges in the school system that we are facing.”

However, she declined to give more specific information, citing her fears that revealing the contents of emails she had received from community members about Butler’s employment might somehow violate confidentiality that state law provides for school personnel files.

UPDATE: Speculation intensified after Thursday’s announcement (after our print edition) from the school board of another special-called closed meeting to discuss personnel on Monday morning at 10:00 a.m.

[Editor’s Note: Check back here Monday morning/afternoon for an update on what, if any, decision/announcement is made after the closed meeting.]