Granville school board silent on Farley

Jun. 12, 2014 @ 06:39 PM

OXFORD — All the players in the drama that has engulfed Granville County Schools and the Board of Education for the last few months seem to agree on one thing: It’s time to move forward.

They said little else in reaction on Thursday.

That was one day after Tim Farley resigned as superintendent, reaching an agreement with a troubled school board that sends him away with $318,000.

“I’ve done nothing wrong, but it’s probably the best thing for the district to get the focus back on the kids,” Farley said. “I had become a distraction.”

After voting to accept Farley’s resignation and provide him a one-time payment of $318,000 the board of education released a statement that said in part: “By taking these actions tonight, the board seeks to refocus the school system on its mission to provide the best possible public education for the children of Granville County.”

The payment to Farley is about half of what the board would have been paying him over the next three years if he had remained until the end of his contract at his current level of compensation.

Assistant Superintendent Beth Day provided a breakdown of Farley’s 2013-2014 compensation.

• Total compensation: $211,161.77, including a base of $161,289.52 paid from state and local funds.

• Annual supplement of $16,025.

• Doctoral supplement of $3,036 based on the state schedule.

• Granville County Professional Education Supplement of $17,731.25.

• Travel allowance of $13,080.

Board members The Dispatch was able to reach declined to comment on the agreement. Chairwoman Brenda Dickerson-Daniel said the school board’s attorney had advised them not to discuss it.

Leonard Peace said he had no comment on the agreement the board made with Farley. He did respond to other questions. The Rev. Patrick Cox sent an email message in which he stated that he had no comments at this time.

Efforts to contact Shirley Lane, Rose Lyon, Donnie Boyd and Toney Smith were unsuccessful.

Triggering the final action was the report of an audit of policies and practices related to the compensation of top district administrators the board had authorized in a special called meeting in February. Concerns about compensation, in particular Farley’s salary, had surfaced last fall when WRAL-Ch. 5 aired a segment on superintendents’ salaries.

When the board released a report of the audit in May, public reaction was extremely negative. Some statements in the report had sections blanked out.

Farley said the information blanked out was significant. He also said that some statements in the audit report are contradicted by minutes of school board meetings.

Peace said Farley’s defense, which was presented in interviews with The Dispatch and other media outlets, was useful.

“He tried to clarify things from the audit,” Peace said Thursday. “It didn’t tell the whole story.”

For example, one statement in the audit report about a retroactive payment to Allan Jordan was in error, Peace said, “But no one paid attention to it.” Farley said it was pointed out to the auditing firm beforehand.

The Dispatch has requested a copy of the unredacted report, but neither the school district nor Nicholas Sojka, the new school board attorney, has complied.

Sojka came into the picture when the school board fired its attorney. Two school board members also lost elections last month.

Farley said he understands the public reaction but thinks people who saw the full audit report had a more positive view of his situation.

Peace said board members should know what is in administrators’ contracts. The audit indicated they did not, and Farley contended school board minutes didn’t agree with the audit.

Farley said school board members confronted him after his salary was published, telling him they were “getting flack about his salary.” Farley said his response was, “We agreed to this.”

Peace also said Farley, who took a reduction in compensation last fall, had said he would consider a reduction in salary.

“It never happened,” Peace said.

The senior staff of the school district was reduced two years ago with the resignation of an assistant superintendent. Her position was not replaced and Farley assumed the duties. Farley had intended to make it smaller next year by not filling Jordan’s position following his retirement.

Peace said he thinks the senior staff that includes a superintendent and two assistant or associate superintendents might be the appropriate size.

He said compensation of a new superintendent would depend on things such as experience.

“I think we should look at what systems our size are doing,” Peace said.

Dickerson-Daniel and Peace were reluctant to say whether the cost of the buyout was worth it.

Day said the bulk of Farley’s severance would come from cost savings in the budget, and the remainder through the fund balance. Farley said last week the fund balance has grown from approximately $250,000 when he arrived in summer of 2007 to about $10 million currently.

In addition to the $318,000 to be paid to Farley, the cost of the audit report was $17,575.65. Day said it was paid with “local funds.”

The attorney’s cost through June 6 was $6,149.59. Day said a line item in the budget for legal fees would cover that cost.

Looking to the future, Farley said he would like to stay in Oxford, if his plans allow it.

“I like this community,” Farley said. “I like Oxford. Nothing has changed about that.”

He will attend his son’s graduation from J.F. Webb High School this Saturday. “The only difference is I’ll be sitting in the audience with the other parents.”

Contact the writer at dirvine@hendersondispatch.com.