Henry County school board unable to negotiate superintendent contract

Many Henry County residents say they are confused and frustrated that school officials could not reach an agreement on the contract of the leading candidate for superintendent.

“We were led on to believe we had the best candidate in the world. We did,” said Wendy Kirkland, noting the four town halls where community members were able to meet Dr. Timothy Gadson.

Kirland was one of dozens of county residents who attended a contentious two-hour Board of Education meeting Tuesday evening. A day earlier during a special called meeting, members voted to rescinded their offer to Gadson.

Board members said Gadson’s contract demands exceeded previous contracts.

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Gadson requested $275,000 plus 10 percent annuity each year, for a total of $302,500, according to documents obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution through an Open Records Request.

“As a starting point, we looked at market value for superintendents in the Atlanta metro area, and that’s what the contract was based on,” Gadson said after the meeting on Tuesday.

Gadson's request falls near what other metro Atlanta superintendents make, between $275,000 and $375,000 on average, according to an AJC analysis of superintendent contracts.

With additional expenses, Gadson’s total requests were close to $550,000 more than the original offer, the documents show.

Buddy Welch, the board’s attorney, said he sent two emails to Gadson’s attorney noting that the package was significantly more than the board was obligated to pay and asked them to reconsider. Welch said Gadson’s attorney responded that she was confused by the statement.

Gadson said his attorney received two “ambiguous” statements from Welch and did not receive a response when asking for clarification.

“We made every effort to reach out and negotiate with the board,” he said. “There was no standard negotiation.”

Residents who spoke during the Tuesday meeting said the board needs to make a decision to keep the quality of the schools from declining.

“Think about the children,” said Michael Ogletree. “Don’t worry about your constituents.”

Some residents, however, agreed with the board’s decision, saying the county should focus on more than one candidate for consideration.

Gadson said he hopes he can negotiate with the board despite the decision to rescind his offer, but admits he is unsure of the appeals process.

“I stand ready to serve as superintendent of Henry County Schools,” he said.

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