FAIRFIELD — The local school district will pay $417,665 to three former administrators whose contracts were bought out recently as part of a controversial restructuring plan, according to documents newly released by the superintendent.

The amounts of the settlements for the administrators in School Administrative District 49 are $199,825 for Lawrence High School Principal Mark Campbell, $114,150 for Special Education Director Cory Rogers and $103,690 for Operations Director Cheryl Brackett.

Lawrence High School Principal Mark Campbell, as he appears in the school’s 2018 yearbook. Courtesy of Lawrence Public Library

The figures and terms of the settlements were released Thursday, almost three weeks after they were authorized by the school board and five days before residents in SAD 49 are scheduled to vote on a 2019-2020 school budget.

The agreements stem from a restructuring plan that calls for changes to or the elimination of 13 administrative jobs in the district.

It was scheduled to be in place by June 30 but has been put on hold by the board because of concerns over the rollout.

“The settlements were not budgeted expenses,” SAD 49 school board Vice Chairwoman Jenny Boyden said in an email. “The payments impact the amount of carry-forward available for the upcoming budget year.

“Without the settlements, there could have been additional $417,000 included as a resource in the budget proposal. Those additional resources could have reduced the impact of this budget on property tax payers.”

From the total amount of $417,665 for the buy-outs, insurance will cover $61,000 of the cost, Superintendent Reza Namin said in an email Thursday.

The remaining $356,665 will come from money that hasn’t been spent in the current fiscal year, Namin said.

Reza Namin, superintendent of MSAD 49, listens Friday at a meeting at Lawrence Middle School in Fairfield. Lawrence High School students staged a silent protest outside the superintendent’s office on Wednesday regarding a restructuring plan devised by Namin that led to the resignation of popular Principal Mark Campbell. Morning Sentinel file photo by Michael G. Seamans

“Our projection is that we will have over 1.1 million left after spending our FY 19 and that is why we used 1.15 million from the fund balance (rather) than 1.85 million (for the FY 20 budget),” he said. “We are not spending anymore as (Assistant Superintendent Roberta Hersom) and I are taking over positions until June 30 when the next budget begins.”

He also added in his email that the expense of the settlements will be offset by $102,103 in savings for having eliminated the director of operations position.

Brackett, who earned a salary of $79,655, went on voluntary paid leave March 22 and her employment ended April 19, the day the settlement was negotiated.

Although her job was eliminated, the restructuring plan also calls for a new position, that of human resources specialist, which the board approved filling in February. The salary is $47,840, Namin said.

He said the end savings of the two changes would result in an approximate $34,000 savings when benefits are considered.

The overall cost savings associated with the restructuring will be $118,000, Namin said, but he said the changes are not budgeted for in the 2019-2020 budget proposal that will be considered by voters for initial approval Tuesday.

Shelli Rudnicki, MSAD 49 board chair, right, listens to Reza Namin, superintendent of MSAD 49, during a school board meeting at Lawrence Junior High School in Fairfield on Thursday where the discussion centered on who could engage legal counsel for the district. Morning Sentinel photo by Michael G. Seamans

“While there is an impact and cost associated with this, I’m confident together the district can move in the right direction to provide the best education for our students,” school board Chairman Shawn Knox said in an email.

The overall $27.15 million budget includes a 2.48 percent increase over the current budget and projected tax rate increases of less than one mil in each town in SAD 49. The district includes Albion, Benton, Clinton and Fairfield.

“The FY 20 budget did not have the restructured positions budgeted,” Namin said. “However, we were prepared if the board decided to move forward with any organizational change. For this, FY 20 will have one less administrative position at $102,103. The Principal and Director position would have the opportunity to be less than budgeted with additional savings. All of this would depend on the direction the board would decide to take as the policymakers.”

On April 25, following outcry from students over the resignation of Campbell and a contentious school board meeting that included more than two hours of public comment criticizing the restructuring plan, the board moved to put all restructuring on hold.

They’re also scheduled to review Namin’s job at their meeting next Thursday.

Under the restructuring plan, three administrative jobs are to be eliminated, five others restructured and advertised for, and two new jobs added. Five additional employees would be given new job descriptions and titles.

Namin did not respond to a request for a breakdown of how the savings will be generated and did not answer when asked how many of the restructuring changes have been made to date.

The terms of the settlements approved last month include the payments to the former administrators as well as conditions that neither party say anything disparaging  about each other. The agreements also include copies of resignation letters for each of the three administrators and favorable job recommendations written by Namin.

The letters written by Brackett and Rogers simply state they are resigning from their jobs as well as any coaching, advisory or extra-curricular roles they held in SAD 49.

In his letter, Campbell wrote his decision was “the result of significant personal and professional reflection and was not reached easily.”

He originally came to the district in 2005 as assistant principal and was promoted to principal in 2014. His salary was $102,831, not including benefits.

“I will miss my work as Principal of Lawrence High School, and I will certainly miss the students,” Campbell wrote. “I wish those students and the district all the best for future success.”

Campbell could not be reached for comment Thursday. It was not clear from the settlement whether he has an attorney.

Stephen Langsdorf, attorney for both Brackett and Rogers, said neither wanted to leave the district, but they feel they were treated fairly in the settlement negotiations.

“They were faced with a situation that was really out of their control, and they thought it was in their best interest to reach this resolution rather than fight with (the district),” Langsdorf said.

Rogers, who worked for the district for seven years and earned a salary of $88,895, said in an interview Thursday he has found new employment in education in New Hampshire and is preparing to move his family there.

“I’m disappointed this was where we ended up, because I loved working for the people of this district and working with the staff and employees,” he said. “It’s disappointing to have my years of service and hard work narrowed down to a number. It doesn’t make anybody feel good, like ‘You’re worth this number.’ I just didn’t expect that.”

Rogers also thanked parents and students who spoke on his behalf at the April 25 school board meeting and said he is looking forward to starting his new job.

“My phone still rings every day asking about things that should occur, shouldn’t occur or haven’t occurred, and it’s hard because I’ve answered those calls seven days a week the entire time I’ve been here, whether it was early in the morning or late at night, trying to help parents and staff,” he said. “I still answer the call, but it’s frustrating because I’m trying desperately to move on.”

Brackett, reached by phone Thursday, declined to comment beyond what her attorney had said.

An employee of SAD 49 for more than 30 years, Brackett has not found new employment but is looking, Langsdorf said.

“This was a difficult situation for both of them,” he said. “They felt under the circumstances it was best to reach these agreements. They’re doing as well as possible under the circumstances.”

 

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