Friday, April 12, 2024

114 West Elm Street
Graham, NC 27253
Ph: 336.228.7851

THE PUBLIC ASKS: Would ABSS supt. receive severance pay if he was fired?

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QUESTION:  The Alamance-Burlington school board is scheduled to hold a special meeting tomorrow afternoon and to enter into a closed session to discuss “personnel” matters.  Does that mean that the school board is considering firing the superintendent, and if so, what does his contract say about severance?

ANSWER:  It’s clearly been a tumultuous week in ABSS – with the sudden departure of the chief finance officer, Kim McVey, followed by the criminal charges filed Monday against deputy superintendent Lowell Rogers for allegedly knowingly failing to report a sexual offense against a seven-year-old male (see separate story, this edition). [https://alamancenews.com/breaking-abss-finance-officer-quits-amid-financial-crisis-legislative-investigation/]

However, the school board’s meeting notice gives no indication whether the purpose of tomorrow’s meeting and closed session is to discuss the job performance of ABSS superintendent Dr. Dain Butler, or that of any other specific employee.

ABSS superintendent Dr. Dain Butler

Instead, the meeting notice states that the board will enter into closed session to consider confidential personnel information; to consult with the board’s attorney; and to preserve the attorney/client privilege.  The state’s Open Meetings Law permits public bodies to enter into closed session for this purpose, and under nine other exemptions, it explicitly prohibits them from having any discussion about general policy matters while behind closed doors.

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Meanwhile, Butler’s employment contract with ABSS – finalized on May 2, 2022 for a four year term, which the board extended by one year in May 2023 – is currently scheduled to run through June 30, 2027.  [State law specifies that K-12 public school superintendents’ contracts can have a term of no more than four years.]

The superintendent’s contract includes a boilerplate provision by which he could be terminated, which include: failure or refusal to perform his job duties, or if he is “guilty of immoral or disreputable conduct.”

If terminated for “just cause,” as it is described in his employment contract, the superintendent would not be eligible to receive any severance pay.

A state law that governs removal of a superintendent states that, if the “State Board of Education has sufficient evidence at any time” that any superintendent is not capable of discharging, or is not discharging, the duties of his office, or is guilty of immoral or disreputable conduct, the state board is required to report that to the school board which employs that superintendent.  The school board is required to “hear evidence in the case,” and after a careful investigation, to declare the office vacant and appoint a successor.  Any superintendent who’s removed from office under those circumstances also has the right to take legal action against the school board.

The same portion of state law also authorizes the State Board of Education (SBE) to revoke a superintendent’s “certificate” if an investigation reveals a “persistent failure to perform” three other categories of his statutorily-required duties, which include failure to: familiarize himself with and implement state polices and rules; hold necessary meetings with teachers; and/or to distribute necessary supplies and information.

If the board opted to “unilaterally terminate” the superintendent’s contract, the board would be obligated to pay “the aggregate salary he would have earned for 18 months of the contract, or the remaining time of the contract, whichever is less,” according to that provision in Butler’s contract with ABSS.

Butler’s current annual salary totals $227,136, which consists of his state-funded base annual pay of $148,796.79, plus a state-funded administrative supplement of $78,339.31.

Based on those pay levels, Butler would be eligible to receive $340,704 for 18 months’ severance – if school board members were to unilaterally terminate his contract with ABSS.


THE PUBLIC ASKS: Have a question about a matter of public record? Call The Alamance News at (336) 228-7851; write to the newspaper at P.O. Box 431, Graham, NC 27253; or e-mail alamancenews@mail.com.

If it’s a topic in the public domain — a matter of public record, including issues of government, courts, etc. — we’ll try to find the answer and print it in ‘The Public Asks’ column. (Please furnish as much complete and specific information as possible.)

Note: Issues regarding businesses — including salaries, policies, and practices — are usually not matters of public record, unless they are the subject of governmental or regulatory action, a court suit, or law enforcement activity.

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