The Bibb County school board is considering a buyout offer from Superintendent Romain Dallemand.
Dallemand raised the prospect of a buyout with school board members behind closed doors during their Jan. 17 meeting, saying he believes it is time for him to leave the post, according to three sources, including two school system employees.
Afterward, board members discussed Dallemands overture but took no action during the meeting.
The board has scheduled a called meeting for 4 p.m. Thursday. The only item on the meeting agenda is listed as executive session -- personnel matters/future acquisition property/pending litigation.
If negotiations with Dallemand progress, the process could move quickly. A recent lawsuit challenged the legality of Dallemands new contract, which the board approved Dec. 3. The lawsuit contends, among other things, that some of the new contracts provisions that the board approved differed from the final contract that Dallemand signed. A hearing in that case is scheduled for Feb. 1.
Another hearing is also scheduled for Feb. 1 in a whistle-blower lawsuit filed against Dallemand by former Chief Financial Officer Ron Collier.
There is recent precedent for buying out Bibb Countys school superintendent. The school board approved a $198,000 lump-sum settlement with former Superintendent Sharon Patterson in February 2010.
Traditionally, such negotiations are handled by attorneys representing the school superintendent and the school board, with the boards attorney reporting back to board members as negotiations progress. Its a back-and-forth process. Stan Hawkins, of the Gainesville-based law firm Harben, Hartley & Hawkins, has represented Dallemand in a lawsuit filed this past summer by former board member Gary Bechtel over alleged student privacy violations involving Bechtels son that were posted on the school systems website.
Dallemands new contract, now subject to a legal challenge in Bibb County Superior Court, provides a severance of $70,000 for every year of service to the district if either he or the school board ends the agreement without cause.
Dallemands contract also includes a provision that could give him a years worth of salary and benefits if the board ends his contract.
Bibb County resident Brad DeFore questioned the legality of Dallemands contract, seeking to void the deal, which took effect this month and ends Dec. 31, 2015. DeFores challenge contends that the board voted on the contract at a Dec. 3 meeting in violation of the states open meetings law. It also contends that the agreement compensates Dallemand beyond the provisions that the board agreed to at the meeting and violates the state Constitutions rules against acquiring new debt or financial commitments that extend beyond a year.
If a judge rules that the current contract is not valid, Dallemand would have to revert to his previous contract, which expires June 30, 2013.
According to the terms of Dallemands first contract, if the board suspends or removes him from his post, the boards financial obligation to him ends the day of his termination, except for any earned but unpaid salary and accrued annual leave due at the time of termination.
During Dallemands two-year tenure in Macon, some board members have praised his efforts to try to transform the system and to reach out to community partners.
Dallemand has had frequent battles and controversies, though, since he took over as Bibb Countys superintendent in February 2011.
His Macon Miracle plan, aimed at improving student achievement through big changes such as Mandarin Chinese instruction for students and an extended learning day, passed in a 5-3 vote in March, but not before public outcry.
In recent weeks, Dallemands financial commitments on behalf of the Bibb County school system to a neighborhood improvement program called Promise Neighborhoods have raised questions.
The systems spending on new furniture, as well as the costs of Dallemands travel, also have drawn criticism.
The Dallemand administration also has drawn scrutiny over how its handled the states open records and meeting laws. A complaint from The Telegraph to the state Attorney Generals Office about open record requests prompted a visit from the offices senior assistant attorney general in May.
Others have criticized him for not being transparent with the board and not putting enough of an emphasis on student safety and discipline.
The decision to renew Dallemands contract came after the board started its first evaluation of the superintendent in October. That was 20 months after he took office -- even though his contract called for an annual review of his performance.
Almost three years ago, the Bibb County school board bought out Pattersons contract in the middle of an ethics probe by the Professional Standards Commission over whether she had failed to report principal misconduct. Patterson had been Bibb Countys superintendent for 10 years when she left the system.
In March, the PSC retroactively suspended Pattersons teaching certificate for 90 days.
To contact writer Oby Brown, call 744-4396. To contact writer Andrea Castillo, call 744-4331.