School chief placed on leave

Published 10:47 am Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Chesy superintendent challenged over Chamber of Commerce project

CHESAPEAKE — Chesapeake School Superintendent Dr. Scott Howard has been placed on administrative leave with pay following a special school board meeting called on Thursday.

The action was apparently taken in connection with a brochure that Howard prepared for the Greater Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce.

The brochure was the idea of Dr. Bill Dingus, executive director of the chamber and the Lawrence Economic and Development Corp., according to Richard Meyers, Howard’s attorney.

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“Scott and a couple of guys were working on a brochure about the size of a paper,” Meyers said. “He had roughed one out and handed it to one of his people on the staff (to proof). … I think it may have gotten out of hand. One of the staff people mentioned to a board member that Scott was using school staff and computers for another agency. I am not sure they even bothered to tell which agency.”

Meyers and Howard appeared at the Thursday board meeting.

“We admitted what we did,” Meyers said. “They heard it, but decided they wanted it investigated.”

Portsmouth attorney Dan Ruggiero is doing the investigation, Meyers said.

Right now Howard is considered on vacation from his superintendent’s post.

“Basically it is my understanding, I am not directly involved, it was a brochure for leadership for high school students,” said Dingus. “This has been very surprising for me. (Chesapeake) has been a real partner. We gave a scholarship to each district for its top graduate. I know of no person in all of my career that is of higher character than Scott.”

Dingus referred questions about the brochure to Bob Smith, president of the chamber.

“He provided me with two sheets of paper,” Smith said. “I am baffled about what is going on. I don’t understand it. When it comes to a chamber of commerce and a school system, it important to have a working relationship and exchange ideas. When someone is looking over your shoulder, you can’t exchange ideas. It was just a couple of sheets of paper. It seems very frivolous.”

Howard referred all questions to Meyers at this time.

“I have been told by my attorney to make no comment and to forward all calls to him,” Howard said.

Howard received a second contract from the school district on Aug. 2, 2011, for five years with an annual salary rate of $100,786. That salary is to be increased each August by a minimum of three percent.

School board members either did not return phone calls made by The Tribune or refused to answer questions.

Repeated phone calls were made to the home of Bill Pratt, chairman of the school board. Calls made to Jerry Osborne’s cell phone and Dr. Mike Dyer’s office phone were not returned.

David Bennett repeatedly said he would rather not comment except to say “(Howard) was put on leave as far as I know.” Bennett referred questions to Pratt.

Dr. Kim Oxley referred questions to Ruggiero. When questioned further, Oxley said, “I can’t comment. Thank you,” and hung up the telephone.

Ruggiero was not available for comment.