Board of Education releases details on Townsend’s termination

Education, News, Politics, Press Release

JASPER, Ga. – It took a little more than a month for the Pickens County Board of Education to release the financial fallout regarding the termination of Dr. Rick Townsend and the future contingency plan. Consequently, it leaves many hesitant to trust the board after some members reversed course from their original expectations.

In previous statements, Chairwoman Sue Finley had hoped to retain Townsend in a different capacity while trying to find a budget-neutral solution. After weeks of back and forth between both Townsend and the school board, it was clear that both parties were not going to get what they wanted.

Board Chair Sue Finley

On February 26, Phil Landrum, attorney for the Pickens County School Board, issues a Press Release that quickly went viral. In the one-page letter, Landrum starts by highlighting the reorganization of the front office. The reorganization strategy was inspired by Tony Young, the school system’s acting Superintendent. Young’s plan, pitched in a previous interview, called for eliminating the Assistant Superintendent’s position and the Chief Officer. The school system hopes to save $565,604.88 over the next couple of years between those two positions.

Landrum went on to say that the citizens should ultimately see a net benefit after a heavy loss the school system is set to take from the payout of Townsend. The school system will have to pay Townsend two years of salary at $406,014.73. After FICA payments and Workers Compensation payments are made, taxpayers can expect to pay $421,699.50 in total. For many vocal citizens that opposed this decision, this was an inevitable fear come true.

In a post made through a social media group Impact Pickens, Brian Rittenberry also acts as an administrator to said group vowed that he would proceed with a petition to recall some of the Board of Education members. In a conversation with Election Supervisor Julianne Roberts, any petition would exclude Tommy Gartrell and Steve Smith because a recall cannot be made on an elected official in their first, or last, 180 days of their term in office.

Pickens County Board of Education, Superintendent

Rick Townsend, former Superintendent of Pickens County Schools

“We’ve obviously been overspending this entire time, no surprise there,” said Rittenberry. “Please y’all, discuss this with your neighbors and get folks ready! A petition is coming!”

Roberts confirms that no one has requested a petition from her office.

While opposition to the board decision made some take a proactive approach, Townsend took to his social media account to say that he’s ready to move on from the issue.

“Yes, I’m disappointed I’m not able to complete some of the goals that I had, but I’m glad I had the opportunity to lay the groundwork for future change in Pickens,” said Townsend. “There was no wrongdoing on my part and I fell victim to politics, but knew that was a possibility when I agreed to accept the position. It’s time to move on and continue to make a positive difference in the community and spend more time with my family.”

Board of Education releases details on Townsend’s termination

Education, News, Politics, Press Release

JASPER, Ga. – It took a little more than a month for the Pickens County Board of Education to release the financial fallout regarding the termination of Dr. Rick Townsend and the future contingency plan. Consequently, it leaves many hesitant to trust the board after some members reversed course from their original expectations.

In previous statements, Chairwoman Sue Finley had hoped to retain Townsend in a different capacity while trying to find a budget-neutral solution. After weeks of back and forth between both Townsend and the school board, it was clear that both parties were not going to get what they wanted.

Board Chair Sue Finley

On February 26, Phil Landrum, attorney for the Pickens County School Board, issues a Press Release that quickly went viral. In the one-page letter, Landrum starts by highlighting the reorganization of the front office. The reorganization strategy was inspired by Tony Young, the school system’s acting Superintendent. Young’s plan, pitched in a previous interview, called for eliminating the Assistant Superintendent’s position and the Chief Officer. The school system hopes to save $565,604.88 over the next couple of years between those two positions.

Landrum went on to say that the citizens should ultimately see a net benefit after a heavy loss the school system is set to take from the payout of Townsend. The school system will have to pay Townsend two years of salary at $406,014.73. After FICA payments and Workers Compensation payments are made, taxpayers can expect to pay $421,699.50 in total. For many vocal citizens that opposed this decision, this was an inevitable fear come true.

In a post made through a social media group Impact Pickens, Brian Rittenberry also acts as an administrator to said group vowed that he would proceed with a petition to recall some of the Board of Education members. In a conversation with Election Supervisor Julianne Roberts, any petition would exclude Tommy Gartrell and Steve Smith because a recall cannot be made on an elected official in their first, or last, 180 days of their term in office.

Pickens County Board of Education, Superintendent

Rick Townsend, former Superintendent of Pickens County Schools

“We’ve obviously been overspending this entire time, no surprise there,” said Rittenberry. “Please y’all, discuss this with your neighbors and get folks ready! A petition is coming!”

Roberts confirms that no one has requested a petition from her office.

While opposition to the board decision made some take a proactive approach, Townsend took to his social media account to say that he’s ready to move on from the issue.

“Yes, I’m disappointed I’m not able to complete some of the goals that I had, but I’m glad I had the opportunity to lay the groundwork for future change in Pickens,” said Townsend. “There was no wrongdoing on my part and I fell victim to politics, but knew that was a possibility when I agreed to accept the position. It’s time to move on and continue to make a positive difference in the community and spend more time with my family.”

Pickens BOE sets Interim Superintendent while negotiating with Townsend

Featured News, Featured Stories, News
Superintendent

JASPER, Ga. – The Pickens Board of Education held another emergency called meeting today for the Superintendent position, planned since their three-hour executive session on Friday.

Today, however, saw a large increase in the number of people attending the meeting. The Board allowed 20 people inside along with press members while the excess citizens remained in the foyer.

The crowd did not stay silent before and after the meeting, voicing displeasure in expected action, and then actual action, from the Board during the meeting.

With yet another 3-2 vote, the BOE voted to renegotiate terms and contracts with Superintendent Townsend, desiring to move him elsewhere in the education system. A move that one citizen said they would do while they were in executive session, calling it an attempt to avoid paying a “$500,000 buyout.” And indeed, Board Chair Sue Finley said the board hopes to make this a budget neutral transition.

In his stead, the Board voted 3-2 to instate Assistant Superintendent Tony Young as the Interim Superintendent of Schools.

Board Member Tucker Green said about the vote to modify Townsend’s contract, “I will vote to oppose this action as I do not believe this is necessary or appropriate. I support Dr. Rick Townsend. I feel he has done a good job for our district during a very difficult time. In the middle of a pandemic and situations that we are, we need stability and a steady hand at the helm. I do not agree with this. I don’t think it’s necessary, so, I will oppose.”

Superintendent

Assistant Superintendent Tony Young, now voted in as Interim Superintendent

With both votes set, the Board of Education is moving forward with the process and negotiations. FYN clarified this with Board Attorney Phil Landrum, III, who confirmed that, technically speaking, the Board has two Superintendents at this time. He said the Interim is in place as negotiations move forward with Dr. Rick Townsend and his attorney.

When asked if it is possible to have two Superintendents, Landrum stated, “You can, you don’t really usually see it.”

Landrum declined to comment on specific positions or if any were discussed, instead saying the Board will be looking to put Townsend into a position “where he will be most likely to succeed.”

Finley read a statement from the Board on the topic. “We have appointed Tony Young as our Interim Superintendent. He is currently serving as our Assistant Superintendent. We have no plans to conduct any interviews for the office of Superintendent until some degree of stability and leadership can be brought to the current situation. Based on our experience with Mr. Young, we believe he can and will provide stability and leadership on an interim basis.

We have directed our attorney to work with Dr. Townsend’s attorney to modify the terms and duties of his current contract. We hope that we can reach a mutual understanding that is beneficial to all concerned. We intend for this decision to be budget neutral.”

Finley also addressed concerns over various accreditations from state and other agencies saying they are without merit. She said, “Fear mongering for alternative agendas has no place within that discussion.”

However, again clarifying with Landrum, he stated that should negotiations fall through, the board will have to return and decide what to do about his employment and his contract. Landrum declined to comment further on this topic saying it was a Board decision if that should happen.

SuperintendentFinley also stated, “Mr. Young has reluctantly agreed to perform this job of Interim Superintendent. We thank him for his continued service to our district and we have confidence our teachers, staff, and the rest of our community will support Mr. Young in this role.”

FYN caught up with Interim Superintendent Young after the meeting to ask him about his reluctance. To which he replied, “I don’t think anyone should excitedly accept a Superintendancy right now with COVID and everything else we’ve got going on. We’ve got an awesome staff. I’ve got confidence in them and I think good things will happen, but it won’t be easy.”

Young will officially be reaching out and taking the reins of the Pickens County School System tomorrow, January 19, 2021.

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