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D-B board extends DeCamp’s contract

COAL GROVE — In a move that locks up the district’s top administrator through March 2013, the Dawson-Bryant Board of Education voted Thursday night to extend the contract of Superintendent Dennis DeCamp by three years.

With the extension — inked just 12 days before voters head to the polls to fill three soon-to-be-vacant seats — the board tacked on an additional 36 months to the current 16 month contract DeCamp has been working under since he was hired by the district in Nov. 2008. That contract was set to expire in March 2010.

DeCamp’s salary and benefits were unaltered as part of the rehiring.

The 3-1 vote to approve the extension was along the similar lines of Nov. 2008 when the board decided to offer DeCamp his first contract as superintendent. Board members Debbie Drummond, Jamie Murphy and Deanna Holliday voted for the three-year extension while Jim Beals voted against it.

Drummond and Murphy are currently seeking re-election to the board on November 3. They are being challenged by six other candidates.

Board Member Sadie Mulkey was absent from the special session due to health reasons, according to board members in attendance. Mulkey cast the other dissenting vote when DeCamp was hired originally.

The vote to renew the current superintendent’s contract comes exactly one year to the day after DeCamp first interviewed for the Dawson-Bryant leadership position following the departure of Dr. James Payne who left the district to take over as superintendent of the Lawrence County Educational Service Center.

DeCamp, who served as director of operations for Sciotoville Community School in Portsmouth for seven years before abruptly resigning in October 2008, was one of six interviewed finalists for superintendent before being offered the position.

However, as part of its tender, the board only offered DeCamp a 16-month contract saying they would evaluate him and the position during the duration of the agreement.

The timing of the extension along with the board’s evaluation process — which came to fruition at a pair of recent board meetings and only 11 months into DeCamp’s current contract — drew the ire of several in attendance Thursday night, including former Lawrence County Sheriff Tim Sexton.

Sexton addressed the board asking why they would schedule such a critical meeting on the same exact night as parent teacher conferences while asking how the evaluation process was being conducted and who was party to it.

“You would think you would want parents and teachers involved in a meeting like this,” Sexton said.

Board member Jamie Murphy said the meeting was scheduled at the nearest available date the board had following their Monday, Oct. 19 evaluation session.

Murphy said the meeting could not be held on Tuesday due to state laws requiring a 24-hour notice for public meetings while having the special session on Wednesday would have interfered with evening church services.

“We have waited too long to do this,” Murphy said, when explaining the roadmap the board is putting in place for evaluations in the future. “We do have a process in mind once we get through this.”

DeCamp’s evaluation and subsequent contract extension were hammered out in an executive session that lasted two hours and five minutes. Whether or not those evaluations are public record is currently under debate.

After the meeting, Murphy said DeCamp was due the evaluation and did not second guess the timing of it when asked.

“We said we were going to evaluate the superintendent and we owed that to him. It needed to be done,” Murphy explained.

As for DeCamp, he said the extension allows him to start tackling many of the issues facing the district.

“I’m delighted the board had confidence in me. We have some financial challenges ahead of us that could inhibit the academic process of our students,” DeCamp said following the special session. “I appreciate the support I have been given by numerous people within the community and staff within the district.”