Deloatch questions School Board#8217;s decision

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 4, 2006

WINTON – Dennis Deloatch feels the public needs to hear the other side of the story.

Speaking publicly for the first time since the Hertford County Board of Education voted 3-2 on May 22 not to renew his contract as Schools Superintendent, Deloatch said his future as an educator is now jeopardized.

“My main reason for responding is the fact that the public needs to know and then come to their own conclusions about the board’s purpose in not keeping a person with such impressive credits to the school system,” Deloatch said in a prepared statement hand-delivered Friday to the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald.

Deloatch stated that while most community leaders and citizens have speculated why such a drastic decision was reached, he wanted to clarify the incidents which took place prior to that fateful meeting on May 22.

He began his explanation by stating that the discussion to renew his contract came extremely late. He said it was customary to offer a superintendent a contract extension no later than two years after accepting the offer as superintendent. Deloatch was hired four years ago.

Deloatch sited State Statute 115C-271 that reads…“At any time after the first 12 months of a superintendent’s contract, the local board, with the consent of the superintendent, may extend or renew the terms of the superintendent’s contract.”

“Therefore, the contract offer could have been issued at the end of my first year as superintendent, but since it was not offered, I brought it to the (School Board) chairman’s attention the second year,” Deloatch said. “It was not considered then because one board member did not want to address the issue at that time.”

However, Deloatch claims he believed things were going well and his evaluations were satisfactory. He said individual board members were assuring him his contract would be extended. With that thought on his mind, Deloatch said he set about his task of improving the school district.

“At the end of my third year, I reminded the board chair (David Shields) of the contact and again I was assured a contract was forthcoming,” Deloatch recalled. “As time passed, I questioned the delay of the contract, but since I was assured by the board chair and other individual board members (that a contract renewal was in the works), I never questioned the intent or integrity of this board. As recently as five months ago, I was assured by the board chair and two other board members that a contract would be given.”

During a formal and legal board meeting held April 8 in Chicago during the national convention where all members were present, Deloatch said the board met to discuss his contract.

“At the end of that meeting, Mr. Shields met with me and informed me of the conditions that had been approved in that contract,” Deloatch said. “Salary and benefits were all discussed and agreed to during that meeting. I verbally accepted the contract’s conditions as presented and it was stated at that time the board would vote (on the contract) at their next home board meeting.”

Upon returning home, Deloatch said he was given two contracts to ponder n one, two-year deal while the other was a three-year package. He added he was not clear on which one the board would favor.

At the next regular board meeting (April 24), Deloatch said Shields pulled the discussion of the superintendent’s contract off the agenda.

“When questioned why that was done, Mr. Shields said he pulled the item because (board member) Rev. Patrick Young was not present,” Deloatch noted. “One board member stated we have never pulled an item off the agenda because of someone’s absence.”

At the end of that meeting, Deloatch said the board decided to schedule a special meeting on May 15 to vote on his contract. However, at the May 15 meeting, Deloatch said two board members wanted to wait to see the EOC (End of Course) and EOG (End of Grade) test scores and, therefore, no vote was taken.

“I was asked to e-mail the test scores to the board by 12 noon the following Monday (May 22),” Deloatch recalled. “Two board members called the testing coordinator and one of them wanted the coordinator to e-mail him the test scores before anyone else had them. On Monday, as requested, the EOG test scores were e-mailed to all board members.”

Deloatch said those scores reflected significant gains.

With the next regular board meeting scheduled for May 22, Deloatch said he met with Shields one week prior in order to discuss his concerns about the delay.

“(Shields) gave me no reason to believe that he or the board would not be voting to offer me a contract,” Deloatch said. “As time elapsed, I began to have concerns. Although I trusted the board and relied on the integrity of individual board members, I thought I would take advantage of some employment options which I had turned down in the past two years.”

Contacting Shields three days prior to the May 22 meeting, Deloatch informed the chairman he was being considered for employment by another school system.

“This was not a job offer,” Deloatch stressed. “I was only under consideration for the position, but I felt it was my professional and ethical responsibility to let Mr. Shields know that I was being considered for other employment.”

Despite the other job offer, Deloatch made it crystal clear his heart is and always has been in Hertford County where he has served in a number of educational positions.

“During the open session of the May 22 board meeting, I appealed to the board (for a contract extension) and also informed them that I was being considered for another job,” he said. “I wanted them to know and to have a chance to make me an offer. Again, that offer was either a two- or three-year contract. However, I could tell from looking at two of the board members that my public appeal offended them.”

Then came a blow Deloatch said he wasn’t prepared for when, following a closed session, the board voted not to renew the contract (either two or three years). Board members Ronald Baker and John Horton voted in favor of the contract renewal with Wendell Hall and Rev. Young recording no votes. As the board chair, it was up to Shields to break the tie. He did by voting no.

“It was a shock to everyone there, especially me,” Deloatch recalled. “Since there was no discussion in open session of not renewing my contract, this vote really caught me by surprise.”

He continued, “If these three members wanted my resignation, I would have been glad to render it to them rather than to be set-up by a scheme to be non-renewed. No professional person wants to be non-renewed.”

Deloatch claimed that during his 33 years as an educator n one where he has worked for seven superintendents and 12 principals n he has no blemishes on his record of service.

“This process was unethical, humiliating, disgraceful and unprofessional,” Deloatch said. “In my 17 years in administration, we have never non-renewed anyone in a public meeting without talking to that person privately and giving them a chance to resign or move on. This process was not followed in my case. I wonder why not and what would any board member gain from doing this?

Deloatch said his future is now damaged by the fact he wasn’t given an opportunity to gracefully resign.

“A non-renewal makes anyone in our line of work unemployable,” Deloatch noted. “Therefore, the other job I was under consideration for has now been declined. School board members are very aware of the effects of a non-renewal on a person’s livelihood, yet these three (Hall, Young, Shields) still chose to pursue this method.”

Deloatch said no reason was ever given for the contract non-renewal and if there was, none were justified. However, the former superintendent said he knows why he no longer occupies an office in Winton.

“I know for a fact and I have been informed by the public and (school system) staff that jealously and control lead to my demise,” he said. “If I am guilty of anything it’s of making decisions in the best interest of the students and staff and not letting individual board members control me or to persuade me to do their personal and individual bidding. I did not and will not make decisions to promote personal gains or vendettas of individual board members.”

He continued, “Even though some board members felt the need to become involved in the everyday operations of the district, it was apparent they wanted to control me and the district. Since I did not protect individual staff members who did not do as required; did not hire family members or other personal constitutes who were not certified and who the principals did not want; and did not dismiss or move individuals just because a board member wanted me to do so, that appears to be the demise of this superintendent.”

Deloatch said his duties, charged by the letter of the law, were to run the day-by-day operations of the district, to ensure the right people were in the right places with everyone doing their jobs and work with the school board.

After the fateful meeting on May 22, Deloatch said his suffering was far from over.

“I met with Mr. Shields on the morning of June 20 where he informed me that they had decided to change the locks on my office and all outside doors,” Deloatch said. “By 1:30 p.m. that day I was locked out of my office as if I was a common criminal.”

Citing his long list of accomplishments for Hertford County Public Schools over the last four years, Deloatch said those facts should be enough to entice any board member to do everything in their power to keep such a superintendent. However, he said it didn’t work out that way in his case.

“Now that their plan is visible, it is clear who the advocates of the children are and who are just there for their own personal gain and satisfaction,” Deloatch said.

As far as making strides within the school district, Deloatch said this has indeed occurred, despite having vacancies in key positions remain unfilled for long periods of time.

“Remember that it’s the board that approves personnel and controls almost everything we do,” Deloatch said. “For the past 13 months there has been no assistant superintendent; no finance director for the past four months; no Title One director for the past five months; no director of Auxiliary Services for the past eight months and no assistant principal at the high school for 14 months.”

Deloatch said he was responding at this time in order for Hertford County citizens to have all the facts. He urged the citizens to make their own judgments and reach their own conclusions on whether or not his non-renewal was justified.

“I’m proud of these accomplishments and what our teachers, administrators and parents have done for the children,” Deloatch closed. “I am very grateful for the support of certain board members and to those staff members and business partners who worked so hard to help make a difference for our community and children. I have no regrets about anything I have done and leave you in the hands of those divine board members who say one thing to the public, but react differently behind closed doors.”