County BOE non-renews superintendent’s contract

Published 5:43 pm Thursday, October 12, 2023

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Despite glowing remarks from several county residents, Escambia County Schools Superintendent Michele McClung will be leaving her post when her contract expires in 2024.

By a 4-3 vote, members of the Escambia County School Board voted against renewing and extending the contract with McClung on Oct. 12. Her contract expires May 2024.

Those voting for the contract extension/renewal were Danny Benjamin – District 2, Mike Edwards – District 3 and Coleman Wallace – District 7. Those voting not to renew were Cindy Jackson – District 4, Loumeek White – District 5, Sherry Digmon – District 6 and Kevin Hoomes – District 1.

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After a round of “yes” voters criticizing those who voted to allow the contract to expire, only one member of the board explained a partial reason for the vote to let McClung go.

Digmon said she voted not to renew the contract with McClung for the sake of employees in the system.

“I voted for the employees who teach our children,” Digmon said. “Not one employee got in touch with me to say ‘Gee, I wish you’d change your vote’ and those are the people. Yes, Ms. McClung received satisfactory marks on the evaluation, but we need excellent. Why should we be happy about ‘satisfactory?’ As far as the employees in our schools, it’s apparent that leadership needs to change.”

Benjamin said the decision by the board said the decision was a “travesty.”

“What a travesty today,” Benjamin said. “To see our students go back to a failing status.”

Edwards said he would like to see those who voted against McClung’s contract renewal leave the board.

“After 12 years on this board I can say I’m ashamed to be on this board,” Edwards said. “The members who voted no, we need to replace you four.”

Coleman echoed Benjamin’s comments.

“This is a travesty that has taken place today,” Wallace said. “This is a disgrace to take an oath of office and then say the leader is not doing a satisfactory job. This is the best leader we’ve ever had and we have people who have personal agendas who have put them ahead of our children.”

Hoomes, White and Jackson remained silent following the vote Thursday.

Prior to the voting process concerning McClung’s contract, several county residents made glowing remarks, possibly in an attempt to sway votes by members of the board in McClung’s favor.

Escambia County District Attorney Stephen Billy addressed rumors against McClung leading up to Thursday’s vote.

“I normally don’t get involved in things of this nature,” Billy said. “There have been rumors and attacks against Ms. McClung, and an audit that revealed nothing. This lady is not going to be brought before a grand jury because there is nothing to bring her there. There will be other things to come before the grand jury that I’m not at liberty to reveal. She doesn’t have an agenda. She loves children. There has been progress. She wants to do the right thing and is ethical. Look at the oath you took. Look at your duties. Are you going to undo the progress made?”

Atmore Businesswoman Dale Ash, who is an owner of Pepsi-Cola Bottling Co., said she supported McClung and the work she has done.

“Our company has had a partnership with the school system and it is one we’ve enjoyed,” Ash said. “We appreciate what has been done, especially in Atmore and we are establishing a scholarship at W.S. Neal, Flomaton and Escambia County High School for valedictorians and salutatorians.”

The Rev. Willie Hawthorne, pastor of Greater Mt. Triumph Baptist Church in Atmore, said allowing McClung’s contract to expire was not a good move for the system.

“There is a saying about changing horses in the middle of the stream,” Hawthorne said. “I’m concerned about our children in Atmore. This is the first time in a long time we have someone reaching out to us. I took a survey, and everyone feels the way I feel and sees light at the end of the tunnel. “

Dewey Bondurant, former mayor of Flomaton, also addressed the board saying he had heard from a number of residents in his district.

“My phone has rung off the hook,” Bondurant said. “I think our representative is behind getting rid of Ms. McClung. She is supposed to represent our district and this is not what the people of the district want. I don’t understand what y’all are doing. She scored high on the evaluation, but Ms. Jackson is pushing this. This is wrong. The people in the town of Flomaton have called me and they support Ms. McClung.”

Although not technically speaking in favor of Ms. McClung, Sen. Greg Albritton did make comments and a presentation prior to the vote.

Albritton typically makes a financial contribution to the system each year, however the 2023 contribution was significantly higher.

“Usually the annual gift is somewhere around $10,000 to $20,000,” Albritton said. “Because of the progress and advancements made in the system, the amount has been increased. This year the gift is in the amount of $72,172.72. This is a reward for a job well done and for the improvements that can be made. You have all my support.”

Following some other points of business, the agenda item to discuss the contract and call for a vote was made.

Wallace made the motion to extend McClung’s contract to June 2027 with room for negotiation of any changes. Edwards seconded the motion.

Following the decision by the board, McClung vowed to continue her work in the system until her contract expires next year.

“It has been my privilege to serve,” McClung said. “I am proud of the work collectively that we’ve done. I was raised to leave a place better than I found it. I will continue to work diligently through the end of my contract to ensure we leave it in a good place. The next superintendent will find this place in better shape than I found it, I can assure you.”

McClung was tapped for the superintendent seat in July 2021 with her contract beginning in August 2021. She was voted into the position by the board seated at that time by a 4-3 vote. Although members did not unanimously support the hiring of McClung, all agreed to support the choice for the seat.

McClung came to Escambia County after serving as the director of teaching, learning and assessment with the Mobile County Public Schools Board of Education.

No decision on when to begin the search for a new superintendent was discussed at Thursday’s meeting.

The next meeting of the board has been set for Nov. 16 at 4:30 p.m. at the Escambia County School Board offices in Brewton.