A closely-divided Alamance-Burlington school board has granted superintendent Dr. Bruce Benson a temporary leave of absence – for an unspecified length of time – after a special-called meeting Wednesday morning.
Board members offered no explanation of the reason for the leave of absence.
But The Alamance News has learned that Benson is currently hospitalized at Duke University Medical Center where he is being treated for what is believed to be to be a brain bleed or cerebral hemorrhage.
Benson had originally been riding his bicycle in his Burlington neighborhood Friday afternoon when he had a medical emergency.
School board members met in closed session – under provisions of the Open Meetings Law allowing closed sessions to deal both with personnel issues and to consult with an attorney – for about an hour-and-a-half before emerging to take action.
Benson announced last month his intention to seek an early release from his contract, effective January 1, 2022. (School board members have not publicly discussed Benson’s request; nor have they discussed their plans for recruiting a successor.)
School board members voted 7-0 in July to award Benson a one-time $5,000 performance bonus for the 2020-21 school year and to extend his employment contract by an additional year, from June 30, 2024 to June 30, 2025. The extension that school board members approved this summer represents the maximum term length, four years, that state law provides for superintendents’ contracts.
During their special-called meeting Wednesday morning, school board members voted 4-3 to adopt a resolution granting Benson a temporary leave of absence and appointing Jeremy Teetor, chief finance officer for ABSS, to temporarily handle the superintendent’s duties.
Voting for the motion were school board members Patsy Simpson, Ryan Bowden, Sandy Ellington-Graves, and Donna Westbrooks.
Voting against were school board chairman Allison Gant, Wayne Beam, and vice chairman Tony Rose.
Appointment of any temporary replacement for superintendent is subject to approval by the state superintendent of public instruction, as required under North Carolina’s public education laws.
The Alamance News has also learned that the basis of the split vote among school board members was an apparent disagreement over who to appoint in the interim to carry out the superintendent’s duties, with other members preferring to appoint Dr. Angela Bost, deputy superintendent of student learning for ABSS.
Benson took over as the superintendent for ABSS in July 2018. He had previously served as the superintendent of two school systems in Virginia: Stafford County public schools, from 2014 until 2018; and Accomack County public schools from 2011-14. After beginning his career as a teacher, Benson worked 12 years for the Albemarle County public schools in Virginia, where he held two administrative positions and later served as an assistant superintendent from 2006 until 2011.
School board members had already announced that they will hold another special-called meeting, again for the purpose of entering into closed session, at 5:00 p.m. Monday, prior to their regular monthly meeting at 6:30 p.m.