Huntsville's Interim Superintendent Tom Drake announced the resignation of the school system's Chief Financial Officer, Jason Taylor, at tonight's special called school board meeting.
Taylor's newly-formed company, Northbay Strategic Partners, was awarded a $762,000 contract by the Alabama Department of Education to provide support services for its intervention in Montgomery County Schools. The three-year contract drew attention this afternoon when the Alabama Legislature's contract review committee temporarily held up the contract at the request of Rep. John Knight, D-Montgomery.
Drake said he'd received a letter shortly before tonight's meeting informing him of Taylor's resignation, which will be effective April 15. It's the same day the contract goes into effect.
"While the district is sad to see Taylor go, we appreciate his faithful service," said Drake.
"During the remainder of his term at Huntsville City Schools, Taylor will work closely with the superintendent, Dr. Matt Akin, to plan a seamless transition, and to develop a three-year financial projection to guide his successor."
Taylor, usually a fixture at school board meetings, was not at tonight's meeting. Before the resignation announcement, Board president Elisa Ferrell said he was home with a sick family member.
Board member Michelle Watkins said she was displeased that she'd first learned about Taylor's contract with the state department by reading about it in a news article.
"I'm sick and tired of hearing about what goes on at Huntsville City Schools in the media," she said. "That's unacceptable. The board should have been told about this. And a statement should have been prepared by Mr. Taylor to give to the media, instead of him not being here tonight."
Taylor's departure means the school board will have to launch a search for his replacement, just as its lengthy superintendent search is drawing to a close.
"Our finances are very strong," said Board President Elisa Ferrell. "We're in a good financial situation. If we were $21 million in debt like we were five years ago, it would be extremely concerning, but we do have a good finance department; they're very capable. It will be a transition, but I think it will be fine."
After an extended discussion that at times grew heated, the board voted 3-2 to table Akin's superintendent contract after Watkins and board member Pam Hill said they didn't receive the final contract changes until a few hours before the board meeting. They accused Ferrell of neglecting to send the changes to them in a timely manner, and board members spent several minutes discussing which emails were sent and when.
"We had heard earlier they were intent on being aggressive tonight, especially towards me, so I was expecting something," said Ferrell of Hill and Watkins, who are often at odds with the other board members. "I'm just sorry Dr. Akin got caught in the middle of it."
Watkins responded on behalf of herself and Hill, saying "Ms. Ferrell needs to focus on being a president who shares information and works collaboratively with all board members.
"A true leader works to bring harmony, not create discord."
Watkins, Hill and board member Beth Wilder voted in favor of tabling the contract. The board will meet Monday to vote on the final changes, most of them minor. The biggest change was that Akin did not want to be required to get a physical examination each year as his predecessors were required to do.
Akin has already signed the contract, so once the board votes to approve it, Ferrell can sign it and he will be officially hired.