Status of New Bloomfield superintendent uncertain

Leroy Wade, president of the New Bloomfield Board of Education, said he expects personnel issues relating to New Bloomfield Superintendent Chris Small to be cleared up before Small’s contract with the district expires in June of 2012.

On Sept. 21, the board hired Thomas Baugh, retired Hallsville superintendent, to work on an as-needed basis as the district’s new interim superintendent. Small was placed on administrative leave by the board a few days earlier on Sept. 16.

“It’s an ongoing personnel matter. Dr. Small does remain on administrative leave at this time,” Wade said. “We continue to pursue the personnel matter. We hope the patrons of the district know that we are moving as quickly and efficiently as possible.

“In personnel matters, we must abide by state and federal laws that are involved ... so that we proceed in the best interests of the district and the students.”

Wade said he does not know when the personnel issues will be resolved.

“As a board, we are as anxious to see this end as everyone else is,” he said. “We want to be able to put this behind us and move on to other matters.

“We are moving as fast as we can, given the things that we must do to do the right thing.”

Wade said under terms of an employment contract, the board must continue paying Small his annual salary of $105,000 a year. He also said one-year contracts with school superintendents are rare and that most superintendents in Missouri are on multi-year contracts. Some districts give three-year contracts to superintendents.

“We’d have never granted a three-year contract at New Bloomfield,” Wade said.

He said a two-year contract was granted to Small earlier this year in either February or March.

Asked if the board had met in a special meeting on Monday, Nov. 29, Wade said the board had met in executive closed session to discuss personnel issues only.

“That’s really all that I can say,” Wade said.

He declined to say whether Small’s situation was discussed, but he did say that after the closed meeting, nothing changed with Small’s personnel issues. He also declined to disclose whether the issue with Small involves any other school district employee.

Attempts to reach Small for comment were unsuccessful.

Wade said as far as he knows, no lawsuits have been filed in connection with Small’s personnel issues.

Wade is employed full-time with the state as assistant commissioner of financial assistance, outreach and proprietary certification at the Missouri Department of Higher Education.

Asked why Small was placed on administrative leave, Wade said: “I can’t answer that. It is a personnel issue.”

“One side of me wishes that I could say more so I could give a complete explanation. Because all of us are employed, there are certain things that happen to a person as an employee that probably should not be discussed — at least until they are resolved and we know what the truth is,” he said. “It’s mixed. I wish I could say more to the people, so they would have a better understanding. But when you are trying to deal fairly with an employee, there is a reason why those kinds of things are in place and you can’t say more.”

Wade said the district is not bearing the cost of paying two superintendents at the same time because Baugh, as the interim superintendent, is paid only on an “as needed” basis. To retain his full retirement benefits, Baugh has a limit on the number of hours he can work. Wade said this fits well with the district’s needs, because it is paying Baugh only for the time the board feels he needs to provide the district.

“Some days he is there all day. Other days Baugh may not come in at all. But if someone needs something, he is always available. If we don’t need him on a given day, then we don’t pay him. It’s not like we have double superintendents that we are paying,” Wade said.

Asked if there is a message he would like to deliver to the patrons of the school district about the superintendent issue, Wade said: “There are things that take time that we wish would go faster. We are doing the best we can to make sure that the district is protected and that the education of our students continues.”

“Some people might question bringing in Mr. Baugh as interim superintendent,” Wade continued. “Mr. Baugh has done a really good job. Everyone that I have talked with has been very pleased with his performance. Even though hiring him caused a financial impact that we wish we didn’t have to stand, it was the right thing to do to make sure that the district continues on and that our students remain at the forefront of what we are trying to do.”

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