The Unionville-Chadds Ford School District board of directors is ready to move on.
When former board members Keith Knauss and Jeff Hellrung recently protested the way the board handled the "retirement" of Jack Kenney, it left the board members playing defense.
Currently, Kenney is serving the district in a limited capacity, acting as assistant superintendent until June of 2007.
Last spring, however, after Kenney announced his decision to retire outright, the board was unclear on how to approach the year remaining on Kenney's contract.
Hellrung said he believed that the board acted in secret during the ensuing negotiations with Kenney, granting him a limited position with less than 20 actual workdays remaining on the new contract. The rest of his salary comes from accumulated sick and vacation days accrued in the past four years.
Under the exit contract agreement, Kenney will receive one year's salary at $190,470, plus $50,000 in accrued service benefits and an additional $4,672 lump sum retirement benefit. Both of these amounts are part of his original employment agreement.
In a series of letters to the Kennett Paper and in public statements at board meetings, Knauss and Hellrung painted an unflattering picture of the board and focused their assault on board president Curt Baker.
At Monday's regular school board meeting, Hellrung read a statement vilifying both Baker and the overall path that Kenney's retirement took.
"My faith in the board president in particular is shaken," Hellrung said. "What is this deal, paying [Kenney] not to work, keeping it a secret and saying, 'it's OK'? Well, it's not OK, and for this to work we need to trust the board."
While Hellrung's statements brought scattered applause from the standing-room-only crowd, several residents spoke in favor of the decision and expressed their desire to see the district put a period and get on with the business of educating the students.
"I for one am thrilled at the change," said East Marlborough resident Lou Minella. "If it took $300,000 to get to this point, then I'm on board for my part of that. If the worse offense was lack of disclosure, well that's an offense, but it's a minor offense at best."
In Baker's response to Hellrung, he asserted that the board did not act in secret and that many of Knauss' and Hellrung's assertions were false.
Baker also stated that it was Kenney's desire to move on before plotting a new course for the district, something that should be left to his successor.
"I wish I understood more fully the motivations of these two individuals," Baker said. "And I have no interest in continuing this discussion indefinitely."
Baker then briefly explained how the process evolved from a retirement to an employment contract, adding that there are certain aspects of personnel negotiations that are not public information.
"The board and Dr. Kenney acted appropriately throughout this process," Baker said. "It's time to move on."
"I trust our school board president," said board member Corrine Sweeney, adding that Hellrung's statements demonstrate that he has failed to "stay current" with the climate of the district.
"If you were still a member of this board, you would be in complete agreement with what we have done here," Sweeney said to Hellrung. "And I say that as a compliment to you."
Board member Karen Halstead commented on the need for the district to confront the findings of the climate evaluation from last fall, saying that it was clear that changes needed to occur.
"[New superintendent Sharon Parker] has come here on a positive note and we welcome her on a positive note," Halstead said. "And I plead with you to welcome her on a positive note as well. I respect what our president has done and he has my support. And I am not a sheep being led by the nose. This is a good thing, and we need to move on."