Decatur School Board addresses Maggie Fehrman hire, David Dude departureFILE PHOTO USED FOR ILLUSTRATION PURPOSES: The City Schools of Decatur Board of Education. Top row, left to right: former Superintendent David Dude and School Board Chair Lewis Jones. Bottom row, left to right: School board members James Herndon, Tasha White (Vice Chair), Heather Tell and Jana Johnson-Davis. Image obtained via City Schools of Decatur
Decatur, GA — The Decatur School Board late Friday evening, April 30, elaborated on its reasons for planning to hire Maggie Fehrman as City Schools of Decatur’s next superintendent.
The School Board also said former superintendent David Dude is not being paid a severance and is only getting what he’s contractually obligated to receive. That includes payouts for remaining unused vacation days, according to a copy of the separation agreement the board signed with Dude. It’s unclear how much the board is still contractually obligated to pay Dude. The School Board and finance director did not provide an answer when Decaturish asked.
Fehrman provides stability the district needs right now, the School Board said. The statement notes that there are School Board elections this year, and there could potentially be three new board members in 2022, a voting majority. Conducting a search now means if the board hired someone this year, that person could potentially have three new bosses in 2022.
“Our students and staff deserve to have a leader in place who already fully understands our most pressing issues, particularly our focus on ensuring the highest possible academic achievement for our students,” the board said. “As we considered how to proceed with leadership of the district, we knew Dr. Fehrman to be eminently qualified, and felt confident she could immediately hit the ground running and focus on our present concerns and ensure a strong start to the school year. We believe it is in the best interest of our system and our children to enter into a one-year contract with Dr. Fehrman to lead us through the 2021-2022 school year, during which time we–and the board that will be elected later this year–can take stock and determine next steps for the future. This provides a seamless transition, certainty, and stability at this critical time, as Dr. Fehrman has already stepped into the role of Interim Superintendent without missing a beat.”
Fehrman has been acting superintendent since Dude was placed on administrative leave earlier this month.
A lawyer for the School Board provided the separation agreement — called a “Contractual Modification and Transition Agreement” — on Friday evening along with an engagement letter for McGuire Woods, the law firm investigating Dude’s use of vacation time. Dude’s time as City Schools of Decatur’s superintendent officially ended on April 27 when the School Board announced he would be leaving the district.
To see a copy of the separation agreement for David Dude, click here.
To see a copy of the engagement letter with McGuire Woods, click here.
The board’s decision to separate from Dude comes after months of investigative stories by Decaturish.com that examined allegations raised by the school district’s former human resources director.
Dude has been under fire for weeks over allegations that he took more vacation than he was allowed under his contract. The claims were first raised in the lawsuit filed by the district’s former human resources director. Public records show that since he became superintendent in 2015, Dude received $100,000 in additional compensation for cashing out the vacation days he said he didn’t use.
Subsequent reporting by Decaturish revealed evidence to support the claims made in that lawsuit and also revealed that Dude’s most recent contract renewal made it harder and more expensive for the School Board to fire him. The board rescinded that contract and had planned to renegotiate it before deciding to part ways with Dude.
The statement released Friday does not say whether the McGuire Woods investigation has concluded or whether the results will be made public, something Decatur residents — including members of the Beacon Hill Black Alliance for Human Rights and the CSD Black Parent Alliance — have asked for. Decatuish has asked the board if the investigation has concluded and, if it hasn’t, why the board did not wait until the McGuire Woods investigation had concluded before agreeing to pay Dude the balance of what he’s owed under his contract.
It’s unclear how much he’s owed an amount that will include some unused vacation days. Section 3 of the contract says, “Employee’s Annual Vacation Days, as defined under 4.2 of the Employment Contract, shall be paid as though Employee had resigned or been terminated on April 30, 2021.”
The separation agreement makes it clear that Dude’s departure was not a termination, however. Section 2 is titled “No Termination” and says, “City Schools agrees that it will not discharge Employee pursuant to Section 5 of the Employment Contract.” Section 5 of the superintendent’s current contract deals with the reasons for terminating the superintendent, which can be done for cause or the board’s convenience.
Here’s what the board has agreed to pay Dude, according to the separation agreement:
– Monthly compensation and allowance under Sections 3.1 and 4.1 of the Employment Contract for the months of May 2021 and June 2021;
– The cash-out of Annual Vacation Days as provided under Section 4.2 of the Employment Contract, as modified by Section 3 of this Agreement;
– Payment for accrued but unused sick days as provided under Section 4.3 of the Employment Contract, as modified by Section 3 of this Agreement, which the Parties acknowledge will result in payment for the maximum number of accrued but unused sick days allowed under the Employment Contract;
– Reimbursement for Employee’s payments of life and long-term disability insurance for coverage periods through June 30, 2021, as provided in Section 4.4 of the Employment Contract, which will be paid to Employee upon his furnishing a letter from his insurance agent demonstrating the premiums paid and the benefits under said policies (as past practice).
Here is the board’s full statement released on April 30.
Statement from the City Schools of Decatur Board of Education
As we look toward the future, we are keenly focused on providing a rewarding learning experience for our students in a safe, supportive, and inviting environment. Our immediate priorities are ensuring a strong finish to this school year, providing robust summer enrichment programs to help the children who lost ground in the virtual learning process, and preparing for the next school year.
Our students and staff deserve to have a leader in place who already fully understands our most pressing issues, particularly our focus on ensuring the highest possible academic achievement for our students. As we considered how to proceed with leadership of the district, we knew Dr. Fehrman to be eminently qualified, and felt confident she could immediately hit the ground running and focus on our present concerns and ensure a strong start to the school year. We believe it is in the best interest of our system and our children to enter into a one-year contract with Dr. Fehrman to lead us through the 2021-2022 school year, during which time we–and the board that will be elected later this year–can take stock and determine next steps for the future. This provides a seamless transition, certainty, and stability at this critical time, as Dr. Fehrman has already stepped into the role of Interim Superintendent without missing a beat.
Even as we focus on our students, the Board remains committed to working through the issues and challenges that have impacted our school system over the past year. This includes the investigation by an independent 3rd party, McGuireWoods law firm, who has worked diligently to thoroughly inquire into our former Superintendent’s use of vacation time. As you know, the Board and Dr. Dude mutually and amicably decided to separate this month. According to our separation agreement, Dr. Dude is being paid what is owed to him under his current contract, and no severance will be paid. His health insurance will be paid through August. The still-pending lawsuits and agreement with Dr. Dude impact what the Board can communicate, but we are committed to keeping our community advised as we move forward.
We are grateful to the students, teachers, staff, families, and other supporters who have worked tirelessly to ensure that – despite the many challenges we have faced – great work continues in our classrooms. We all look hopefully toward a more stable, consistent 2021-22 school year.
Here are Decaturish.com’s previous stories about this topic:
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