Bedford County Board of Education modified Ray Butrum's contract on Thursday to remove him as school superintendent; former superintendents Mike Bone and Ed Gray will work hours as needed on an interim basis until a new superintendent can be appointed.
The school board held a special called meeting on Thursday to consider two agenda items: an amendment to Butrum's contract and the matter of an interim superintendent.
Butrum had been on administrative leave since Oct. 16 and his office appeared to have been cleaned out when a Times-Gazette reporter visited school system headquarters recently. Butrum had clashed with county commissioners and with some school board members on financial issues, such as a school budget amendment to hire more teachers.
Bone had been appointed to serve as acting school superintendent during the administrative leave.
The reasons for Butrum's departure were not discussed during Thursday's meeting, and the contract amendment specifically prohibits either side from publicly disparaging the other.
School Board Chairman Amy Martin, in a statement this morning to the Times-Gazette, said she wanted to dispel any rumors of wrongdoing by Butrum and said she was impressed with the school system's Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP) scores released Thursday.
Martin said during Thursday's meeting that the school system had worked with legal counsel to draw up the contract amendment.
"I think it is a fair and good amendment to his contract," said Martin.
Butrum was removed as school superintendent as soon as the school board approved the amendment. He will remain on his current salary and benefits through June 30 of next year and will be compensated for all unused vacation days. The third year of Butrum's contract will be cancelled. Neither side will make offensive statements about the other, and both sides agree that the contract amendment is in lieu of litigation, and therefore neither side will sue the other.
Bone agreed to continue to serve as interim superintendent but will work a light schedule, coming in to work only as needed and only being paid for the days he works. Bone and Martin said that he cannot work more than 120 days this year without jeopardizing his state retirement.
Bone requested that Gray, who was Bone's assistant superintendent and then his successor, also be allowed to work, under the same terms and with equal jurisdiction. Bone said Gray's input would be essential when the school system begins the budget process.
The document circulated by Martin said that Bone would "facilitate the operation of our schools, rebuild relationships, and guide our faculty and staff as needed." Martin praised the work done by Bone over the past two weeks.
School board member Glenn Forsee thanked the principals and supervisors attending Thursday's meeting for their work.
"The quality of education is high in Bedford County, and moving up," said Forsee.
Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP) results were released Thursday morning, and the scores showed improvement; the graduation rate, which had been one of Butrum's areas of focus, went to 91.1 percent, an increase from the previous year's rate of 81 percent.
Butrum "visited each high school in the fall of 2011 and challenged the seniors that if they promised to be at their 2012 graduation, he would be there," said Martin in her statement this morning. "Certainly, in one year our teachers, graduation coaches, and administrators have made a significant difference."
Under the normal rules for a special called meeting, no additional items could be discussed, so once Butrum's contract amendment and Bone's appointment had been approved, the meeting was adjourned.
No board discussion took place on the method or timetable for selecting a new superintendent.
When Gray announced his retirement, the board turned to Tennessee School Boards Association to manage the job description and application process and choose a short list of finalists for the school board to interview.
Since there was no discussion Thursday, it's not clear whether that process will be repeated or whether the board will conduct the next application process in-house.
Bone was Bedford County's last elected school superintendent, taking office in 1996, and was then appointed to the post after the state went to a system of school-board-hired superintendents. He retired in 2005. Prior to serving as superintendent, he was principal at Shelbyville Central High School.
Gray, a former assistant superintendent and a former principal of Community High School, served from 2005 until his retirement in 2011, when Butrum took office.
Butrum, a former assistant principal at Barfield Elementary in Rutherford County and former member of the Murfreesboro city school board, was praised when he was hired for his knowledge of the testing procedures and school report cards that now define much of the educational process.
He was an energetic and high-profile administrator, visiting the schools and meeting with students, usually accompanied by his "fist of knowledge," a green toy Incredible Hulk fist which had become his trademark while he was a principal.
Butrum made personnel changes in the schools, moving some principals around and bringing some in from outside the system. He was criticized by the local medical community for inviting an out-of-town hospital's mobile unit to give vaccinations during kindergarten registration.
But he clashed with other county officials and even with some school board members over financial issues.
School board member Chad Graham participated in Thursday's meeting by teleconference.