School Board superintendent resigns amid controversy

Dr. Margaret Smith takes early retirement ‘in classy manner’

BY ASHLEY D. THOMAS
DAYTONA TIMES

Volusia County’s School Board Superintendent Dr. Margaret Smith announced last week that an early retirement was on the horizon. By Tuesday night’s school board meeting, it was a done deal.

150129_dt_front01Smith emailed top district administrators and school principals on Jan. 22 to announce her plans.

“At the school board meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 27, I plan to request that the board approves my intent to retire effective immediately after the school board meeting,” Smith began.

“I have been fortunate to work with a dedicated and outstanding administrative team. I know that you will continue to provide leadership of each student’s success and to support teachers in their challenging work. I am proud of the administrative team and wish only the best for you.”

The board respected her wishes.

Prior accusations of incompetency
Newly elected board member John Hill called on his colleagues to fire Smith at the Jan. 13 board meeting, accusing her of “incompetence.” Hill says that the district’s finances were not properly monitored and encouraged a culture of fiscal irresponsibility.

Smith responded at the meeting that his claims were “outrageous and not founded.”

At Tuesday’s meeting, Smith handed school board members a folder of documents that countered claims made by Hill.

Smith will retire with severance pay and other benefits to the tune of about $90,000. She was hired by the school board 12 years ago.

The meeting, which was packed to capacity with teachers, parents and other community leaders was tense.

“We were not expecting her to retire so soon,” School Board Vice Chair Dr. Ida Wright told the Daytona Times. “I would have hoped that we could have kept her, but I honored her wishes to allow her to exit her contract. It allowed us to part ways in a mutual fashion but she did it in a classy manner rather than making this a public spectacle. Both sides decided to find an amicable way of ending the relationship.”

Search for replacement
Area Superintendent Tom Russell will serve in the interim as the board searches for a long-term successor for Smith.

Russell will be paid $150,000 annually as the interim superintendent. He’s ineligible to apply as the permanent superintendent according to his contract.

Smith left the meeting immediately after the board’s vote and did not return a call for comment.

Wright says the search for a new superintendent could take up to six months to complete.

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