The Blaine County School District is paying former Superintendent Lonnie Barber $600,000 to leave his position nearly three years early.
“We recognize that this is a substantial sum of taxpayer money, but felt that the leadership considerations outweighed the financial consideration,” district Trustee Kathryn Graves stated in a news release Thursday.
Barber served as district superintendent since summer 2009, and assistant superintendent for two years before that. He received a one-year extension to his contract by unanimous school board vote in March, and was contracted to be superintendent until July 1, 2016.
In a special meeting Sept. 27, the district board of trustees voted unanimously to accept a separation agreement with Barber, effective Sept. 30. Assistant Superintendent John Blackman was appointed interim superintendent.
The separation agreement, provided to the Idaho Mountain Express on Thursday, states that severance compensation will be paid to Barber in two installments, one of $250,000 on Nov. 1 and a second of $350,000 by Jan. 6.
According to the news release from the district, Barber’s termination was due to “differences in leadership style and approach.” Board members contacted by the Idaho Mountain Express since the Sept. 27 board meeting have refused to provide details on those differences. However, board Chair Paul Bates said Thursday that “the board will absolutely provide that [to the public] as it moves forward.”
The agreement includes a statement that “[t]he parties understand and agree that any future statement from BCSD regarding inquiries about employee will be limited to verifying dates of employment.” Bates said the board’s intention was not to preclude public statements, but said it would have to consult with its attorney to determine whether it had inadvertently done so.
Barber has also declined to comment on points of difference between himself and the board.
Information released by the district last week showed that the value of Barber’s contract was about $680,000 at the time of his termination. The total includes 33 months of salary plus unused dollars from his benefit package. Barber’s annual salary at the end of the 2012-13 school year was $158,575.
Trustee Kathy Baker said last week that the board intends to have a new superintendent hired before the 2014-15 school year.
On Thursday, board Vice Chair Shawn Bennion stated that the board “will continue to strive to be one of the best school districts in the country.”
“We look forward to working together with the staff and the community to make this goal a reality,” he said. “The children of this community are our highest priority.”
Blackman was introduced as the new interim superintendent at a school board meeting Tuesday night in Hailey. At the meeting, board members did not comment on the termination of Barber’s contract.