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Deal reached to cut year off Morris' contract
Patrick Co. superintendent expected to leave in 2014
Friday, July 26, 2013
By DEBBIE HALL - Bulletin staff writer
The Patrick County School Board voted Thursday to shave a year from school Superintendent Roger Morris’ contract, pending attorneys’ approval.
Morris’ contract with the school division was set to expire June 30, 2015.
Under a motion made by Dan River District member Quinn Brim and unanimously approved by the board, the contract will expire June 30, 2014.
The agreement’s terms must be approved by attorneys for both Morris and the school board, according to Ronnie Terry, school board chairman.
Terry said after the meeting that the school board is working on “some things we needed to change. An offer is on the table” with Morris, Terry said. He declined to elaborate.
However, Terry said the separation agreement contract was mutually agreed upon by the board and Morris.
The board’s action followed an approximately three-hour closed meeting. Morris met with the board in the closed session but left while the meeting was still underway. He did not comment when he left.
The shortened contract will not impair Morris’ ability to fulfill his duties as superintendent, Terry said.
With Morris remaining on the job through June, “both sides will have time to take care of their affairs” and “do it right,” Terry said.
Terry said he and other members of the school board have had “a lot of conversations with (Morris) and there’s been a lot of soul-searching. He (Morris) truly wants to leave the school system in good shape,” and he has put a lot of work into many projects, including rebuilding Meadows of Dan Elementary School after it was destroyed by a fire, Terry said.
If the agreement gets final approval, Terry said the split would be “on good terms and we can move forward.”
The separation agreement contract, as Terry called it, was thought by all parties “to be the best way to approach this,” he said.
The year also will give the school division time to search for a new superintendent, Terry said. He added the last search took about eight months.
“It takes time to do everything right,” Terry said, but school officials hope to do just that.
“We want to do everything we can to make sure everything goes smoothly” and then transfer the system to a new superintendent when the time is right, Terry said.
He does not know how long it will take to get attorneys’ approval on the proposed contract, Terry said.
Thursday’s action came after months of controversy, the latest of which began over the transfers of 10 teachers and employees. The transfers were approved by the school board in June on a motion by Brim.
At a July 18 school board meeting, some speakers claimed the transfers were retaliation against some teachers whose complaints prompted a state Department of Education investigation. That investigation alleged irregularities in testing, diploma administration, communication and personnel matters.
After the July meeting was adjourned, residents also called for Morris’ removal, prompted by a quote on a television newscast and attributed to Morris that concerns about the transfers were “small town junk.”
In an emailed statement Sunday, Morris apologized, calling the remark “wrong and inappropriate.”
The comment, Morris wrote, was directed at the situation. “Changing teacher assignments has never been an issue here nor, under normal circumstances, is it in other places,” he wrote. “I made a mistake. I will offer no excuses, but ask that the citizens of Patrick County forgive me for the words that were aired as I deeply regret them.”
Morris, a Bassett native, has been Patrick’s school superintendent since July 1, 2007.
During his tenure, Morris has faced other controversial situations, including an investigation by the Virginia State Police over an allegedly misused credit card; a lawsuit alleging violations of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA); backlash over a retired teachers’ incentive program; and a lawsuit Morris filed against Lock Boyce, Peters Creek District member on the Patrick County Board of Supervisors.
Terry said Morris has done much good for the county school division, including his handling of the fire at Meadows of Dan Elementary School and rebuilding the school; undertaking a more than $25 million renovation of the county schools; improved scores on state assessments; and many others.
Morris was superintendent in 2010 when the Patrick County Schools were named among the nation’s best by U.S. News and World Report, and he received the Outstanding Superintendent Award in 2011, sponsored by the Curry School of Education Foundation.