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Chesy chief back on job

BOE reinstates superintendent

CHESAPEAKE — Dr. Scott Howard has been reinstated as superintendent of Chesapeake Schools after being placed on administrative leave with pay for 19 days.

The reinstatement came during the board’s regular meeting Monday at the Chesapeake Middle School and was the unanimous decision of the board following a two-hour executive session.

Howard was placed on leave so the board could investigate a complaint that the superintendent had used school personnel and computers to produce a draft of a brochure for a student leadership program that the Greater Lawrence Chamber of Commerce was considering.

Investigating the situation was Daniel Ruggiero, who provides legal counsel for Cross Management Consulting out of Portsmouth.

“I do not believe that Dr. Howard involving two Chesapeake school employees in assisting him to develop a brochure for the leadership program is outside the perimeters of what a superintendent can do,” Ruggiero wrote in the conclusion of his seven-page report. “Dr. Howard shows a passionate interest in leadership and feels that there is a need to seek out potential leaders in the area high schools for nurturing leadership traits. It is my opinion that Dr. Howard did nothing wrong in asking two school employees to assist him with the development of a brochure nor has he violated any existing school board policy.”

When contacted after the board meeting, Howard, who was not present, said he was unaware of the board’s decision.

“At this point there is nothing I can say officially,” he said.

Howard was placed on administrative leave following a special meeting on March 31 attended by board members, Kim Oxley, Bill Pratt, David Bennett and Jerry Osborne. The fifth board member, Mike Dyer, was out of town, but attended the meeting via the telephone. He was unable to vote on any decisions made then.

After Monday night’s meeting Oxley made the following statement via email.

“I am not speaking for the board but only for myself when I say I am disappointed in the manner in which personal agendas and political ambitions have overruled common sense and ethical obligations towards the children of our district,” according to the statement. “I have always been an advocate for children and it saddens me to see grown adults ignoring the needs of the children in our community in favor of personal agendas.  Dr. Howard is a very accomplished superintendent and has brought well over $1 million worth of programs to the children of our district.  He has been an advocate for children and has gone to great lengths to provide new opportunities for our students.  I look forward to his return in full capacity as superintendent and hopefully the district will decide to work together for the benefit of our children.”

Right now the board is one member short with the appointment of Pratt to the Lawrence County Commission. The board has until May 6 to replace Pratt, who was board president. If it is unable to do so, Probate Judge David Payne will make the appointment.

So far, eight have sent letters to the board stating they want to be considered for the position. They are Jerry Frye, Alex Martin, Doug Marcum, Kenneth Wolfe, Charles Oldaker Jr., Douglas Ridenour, Larry Hamlin and Jeffrey Scott Combs. The board is also considering former board member, Tom Curry.

Acting board president Mike Dyer said questionnaires will be sent to those individuals and will be reviewed at a special meeting on April 26.

“We want to know what their motives and experience is,” Dyer said after the meeting. “What connection they have to the district.”

In other action the board

• Approved a reduction in force policy for administration in an effort “to salvage teachers positions due to budget concerns,” Dyer said;

• Awarded a contract with Edwin H. Davis & Son Inc. for the purchase of a multi-purpose vehicle at a cost of $40,380 to be paid with federal stimulus funds;

• Authorized the superintendent to hire two home instruction tutors for up to five hours per week at a wage of $20 per hour and

• Accepted the resignation of Lori Bane and Larry Morgan.

The next regularly scheduled meeting will be May 16 at 6 p.m. at the Chesapeake Middle School library.