Denmark superintendent asks
by Orangeburg Times Democrat
Without explanation, the superintendent of Bamberg School District 2 (Denmark-Olar) has told the board of trustees he does not wish to have his contract renewed when it expires on June 30, 2009.
Dr. Secaida Howell made the surprise announcement during a discussion of his contract.
Howell and Board Chairman Alvin Maynor are being sued by Board Vice Chair Ann Causby. Causby alleges that on June 11, 2007, Maynor, "in a rude and angry manner," approached her in a "threatening and intimidating" way and "in loud and violent language threatened and berated her, causing her to be in great fear of her life and safety, causing her to leave the meeting and to not return."
She also alleges that beginning in December 2006, she repeatedly attempted to obtain "key financial information needed for budgeting and financial oversight purposes and the prevention of fraud and mismanagement. Causby alleges the information she sought was withheld by Howell and others, including Maynor.
She says she became aware of "improper and illegal practices by Howell and other members of the district's administrative staff," claiming that Howell, the school district's attorney and certain members of the board withheld the information.
During the Nov. 12 meeting, the school board members discussed a letter Howell wrote to them back in September that stated in part, "If the district does not n.jpgy the superintendent in writing before Jan. 15, 2008, that this employment contract will not be renewed, it shall be deemed that the district has renewed this employment contract for one more year, extending from the termination date set forth above. The superintendent shall remind the board in writing of the existence of this automatic renewal clause. Such notice will be provided prior to the November 2007 board meeting."
Maynor suggested the superintendent's contract be discussed in a closed session since "the superintendent is being sued by a board member."
Trustee Blossom Thompson, disagreeing with Maynor, said, "It has already been discussed in executive session so let's vote now -- yes or no."
Maynor said he would recuse himself from the discussion of Howell's contract because of the lawsuit filed against him and the superintendent and questioned whether Causby, who filed the lawsuit against the superintendent, be allowed to vote on his contract.
Causby said she would recuse herself from the discussion but added that she could be fair in voting on Howell's contract extension.
"I feel I can make a fair and unbiased decision, but if it is the board's decision that I not vote, I will go by the board's decision," Causby said.
Board members Thompson, Loretta Goodman and Larry Bias voted for a brief recess so the three of them could discuss the matter with attorney Karla Hawkins of the law firm of Boykin, Davis and Hawkins which represents the district. Upon returning to the boardroom, Goodman said they agreed in the private session with the attorney that Causby and Maynor should recuse themselves from voting on Howell's contract.
Howell then addressed the board.
"In order that we not cause any further delay in the contract, since the contract goes through June 30, 2009 and that is another year and a half, and for the sake of further discussion that may not be helpful for the board ... I formally ask the board to allow us at this time not to be part of this school district beyond 2009 ... The contract is for three years, so I kindly ask the board to relieve us of our duties at that time, June 30, 2009."
In other business, Steve Luoma, an auditor from C.C. McGregor in Columbia, presented the results of the district's 2006-2007 audit. He reported for the year ending June 30, 2007, an excess of $193,000 of revenue over expenses that brings the district's fund balance from a deficit of $162,000 at the beginning of the year to a positive of an approximately $30,000 fund balance.
"We would feel much more comfortable with a much larger fund balance, but a small step forward is adequate in our opinion," Louma said.
The trustees went into executive session to discuss employment and personnel recommendations, a student hearing and the school district's legal fees for September.