Alexandria, VA- There's a major shakeup in Alexandria City Public Schools just days before students head back to class.
The school board voted 8-1 Thursday night to release superintendent Morton Sherman from his contract nearly two years before it was set to expire.
School board members held a "special meeting" and gathered behind closed doors for about an hour as they discussed the personnel matter.
"The Board decided to release Dr. Sherman from his remaining contract after a great deal of deliberation," said School Board Chair Karen Graf. "After confirming that the contract release is manageable within the existing budget, the Board voted to pay 39 percent of the remaining contract months, for a value equaling $222,261, plus earned paid leave time valued at $59,246."
School board member Marc Williams voiced his disappointment with the buyout. "In Alexandria we pay our superintendents to come and we pay them to go," he said matter-of-factly.
Dr. Sherman's departure marks the second superintendent in a row to be bought out of a contract in Alexandria. Rebecca Perry left in 2008.
Dr. Sherman emailed staff earlier Thursday and said he decided to move on for personal and professional reasons.
He says his five years in Alexandria were among the most rewarding and emotional he's ever experienced, but now he's putting family first and retiring.
"Alexandria is a wonderful community and I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at ACPS," he said. "It has been my pleasure to serve these amazing students and to work with these dedicated educators. I have confidence that the current School Board, staff and community will continue to work together to move the division forward."
Dr. Sherman came under fire last year over accusations he mismanaged capital improvement funds. Some parents also complained of poor student achievement and high staff turnover, but they say the timing of his departure couldn't be worse.
"We have grave concerns about the timing of the board's actions right when school is about to open," said Alexandria PTA Council President Melynda Wilcox. "It's detrimental to students, teachers and administrators and it's a setback before the school buses have even left the garage."
Dr. Margaret Walsh will help fill the void. She was named acting superintendent Thursday night and has a 21 year history with Alexandria City schools. She served most recently as Chief Policy & Student Services Officer.
ACPS officials say Walsh will remain in that position until the Board appoints a permanent replacement for Dr. Sherman. A Board work session and public hearing in September will start the community engagement process of the superintendent search.
"The Board will create opportunities for community input through public meetings, a Superintendent Search Web page, surveys, work with PTAs and other avenues for community engagement," Graf said.