Fayette County may be losing its school superintendent, but it also may only be a short trip to his next job for Dr. Jeff Bearden.
Recent reports show that Bearden is one of two contenders for the position of Floyd County school superintendent.
On September 19, the Fayette County Board of Education voted to approve a “mutual termination agreement” with Bearden. The agreement, which includes an additional year’s compensation and benefits, will become effective on January 1.
Bearden’s contract was originally slated to be up in December of this year, but in June the school board extended the contract until June 2015.
According to school board member Janet Smola, “The majority of the voard of education was very supportive of Dr. Bearden's vision for Fayette County schools.
“As an individual board member, I believe he was moving our system in the right direction. However, like his predecessor, Dr. Bearden was faced with two board members who consistently worked to undermine his authority and his initiatives. Dr. Todd and Ms. Key wrote a scathing Letter to the Editor grading our superintendent and the majority of the board with an "F" for budgeting and financial forecasting. This letter surfaced just weeks after the board voted to unanimously extend Dr. Bearden's contract. This caused great confusion and upset in our community and our board.
“These same two board members are known for showing up at county offices and schools unannounced and requesting unscheduled meetings or information. This is a violation of our own standards and procedures manual and very disruptive to the administration of our system and individual schools. In short, they consistently overstep their boundaries as individual board members.
“Rumors were swirling this fall about how these same two board members were informing constituents and some employees that they would be ‘running Dr. Bearden out of town’ once the new board was constituted in January. Why they would vote to extend his contract and then make these same statements is perplexing.
“Terri Smith and I thought this was incredibly unfair to Dr. Bearden and with such uncertainty around the level of support he would receive come January, mutually agreed to terminate his contract at the end of December. I can only imagine that the other two board members approved it so that knowledge of their antics would not become public. I know that Leonard Presberg opposed it because he did not want to lose Dr. Bearden. I did what I felt was right for the school system and Dr. Bearden. I wish him well as he looks to resume his career elsewhere and have given him a very positive letter of recommendation which he certainly deserves."
It’s also evident from the application date that Bearden applied for the Floyd County position at least two weeks prior to the mutual termination agreement. The resume, dated Sept. 6, noted that he had been employed by the Fayette County Board of Education for one year and eight months. Also, on his application, Bearden, at that time, indcated he had no problem with Floyd County contacting his current employer for information and that the chairman and vice-chairman already knew about his search.
The termination agreement gave Bearden an amount equal to a year’s salary - $153,000, as well as requiring the board to pay “the premium or costs for one year of health insurance with the State Health Benefit Plan.”
Additionally, “if that coverage is transferred to the Undersigned’s spouse as an employee of the school districting, taking into account and subtracting any amount already paid by the school district as a benefit to the spouse for such insurance coverage.”
According to school board public information officer Melinda Berry-Dreisbach, for health insurance, the employer contribution is the same for all certified persons at $912 per month, regardless of the health plan selected or the number of dependents. The employee premium for Bearden’s spouse would change from the employee only cost of $94.92 to the family cost of $350.86 per month in 2013.
“This is an additional $255.94 per month and the health insurance provision will only go into effect if Dr. Bearden does not secure a position with benefits prior to his departure.”
Another one of the terms of the agreement gives Bearden “an amount equal to the daily rate of pay for any accumulated but unused annual leave accrued.” That would mean Bearden would receive $637.50 for each day of unused leave. Also, he will receive up to $2,500 in attorney’s fees incurred as a result of negotiation of the agreement.
Though nobody is talking about the cause for Bearden’s abrupt departure, a portion of the terms of the agreement asserts “This agreement is to compromise a disputed claim and for no other purpose. All parties agree, understand and acknowledge that the parties recognize, admit or acknowledge no liability whatsoever to each other and that the parties specifically deny any such liability. Neither this agreement nor any payment hereunder is to be construed as an admission of liability on the part of the other party.”
Bearden is facing off against Dr. Jeffrey McDaniel, chief of academics for Floyd County Schools and the Floyd County board is expected to make a decision on Monday, November 5 at a special called meeting.