State Superintendent, Montgomery Co. School Board Members Speak Out on Separation Agreement

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By Brittany Bivins

After days of speculation, meetings, and rumors-it's official. Barbara Thompson is out as the superintendent of the Montgomery Public School System.

On Wednesday, the school board voted to approve a separation agreement between the school system and Thompson at a special meeting.

It only took 30 minutes, but it was an emotional 30 minutes for at least one board member.

"I just think this is a travesty of justice, and I just want it to be said and heard that Barbara Thompson is one of the best people that have come to this district," said Beverly Ross, who voted against the separation agreement.

The other no vote came from Montgomery County School Board President Eleanor Dawkins, who said she felt like some board members were usurping her authority by pushing for the separation.

"The tears were because I was upset with my board members. But the emotion has to do with-we had a good person, but that person was not able to do what the community felt needed to be done," Dawkins said.

Board members Mary Briers voted in favor of the agreement, saying the system needed more transparency.

"We can't continue to do some of the things that we have been doing, and I feel like we've got to start thinking about the children, the teachers, the support staff, and we have not been doing that here lately," said Briers.

The board voted 5 to 2 to approve a separation agreement, giving Barbara Thompson her $155,000 salary for a year, plus $10,000 in moving costs.

"That was in the original contract that we had for Ms. Thompson. The only thing we added to the original contract was to help pay for moving expenses," board member Durden Dean said.

The separation agreement comes after a state investigation into accusations of grade changing by some teachers. State School Superintendent Tommy Bice says he didn't make the decision for the board, but he says the state will offer its help going forward.

"I'd never try to second guess their decision. They made it, it's in the past, and the best thing we can do is move on," Bice said.

Just after approving the agreement, the board moved to appoint an interim superintendent. Margaret Allen, who's worked in the school system for more than 30 years, has been named to that position. She says her first priority will be listening to teachers and parents about where they think the school system should go from here.

"I'm going to be listening, so that's a big first, to listen to hear exactly where we are, where people think we are and because there are already leaders in the school district," Allen said.

Board Member Heather Sellers also voted in favor of the agreement. She says Allen has the experience to move the system forward.

"There's a plan in place with the state department. It's a 30, a 60, a 90 day plan, and we are looking forward to the leadership of Margaret Allen to help us with that plan," Sellers said.

Board President Eleanor Dawkins said the board will move to find a new superintendent, following the same procedure it has in the past.

"We have to do our own search and with the history that we have, we've done several searches so I'm sure that procedure won't be difficult to resurrect," said Dawkins.

Thompson's resignation and Allen's appointment will become effective immediately. The board has not outlined a timeline for selecting a permanent replacement for Thompson.



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