Will Burlington School Board pull the plug on superintendent? - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Will Burlington School Board pull the plug on superintendent?

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BURLINGTON, Vt. - Serious budgeting and tax compliance problems have thrown Burlington's superintendent Jeanne Collins into the spotlight.

There's a school board meeting scheduled for Tuesday night and sources tell WCAX News there may be a turning point coming soon.

Pietro Lynn has years of experience in superintendent contract negotiations and when a school board is looking for new leadership, Lynn says there are typically three paths to take.

"The first is a negotiated agreement. The second is a termination for cause and the last is a termination without cause," said Lynn.

Following a failed budget on Town Meeting Day and an audit that uncovered years of multimillion dollar deficits, the future of Collins' job has been in jeopardy with city councilors and Mayor Miro Weinberger calling for her to step down. But there's a lot of cash at stake for both Collins and the school board.

Collins is contracted through June 2016 with an annual salary of more than $129,000. There has been speculation that the financial trouble falls on Collins' shoulders. Lynn says if the board decides to let Collins go based on that, it would be a lengthy and difficult process.

"A termination for cause under U.S. Supreme Court case called 'Laudermill' would require a contested hearing. That would be extremely divisive. It would be a waste of resources and time for all the parties involved," said Lynn.

Her contract states that should the board choose to fire her without any reason she must be paid full salary for two years. It would need two-thirds vote by the board and Lynn says would not be in the superintendent’s best interest.

"And I think it's important for many educators including superintendents to make sure their departures from their last position of employment are such that they can in the future convincing and truthfully explain that they are indeed competent professionals," said Lynn.

If the two sides decide to part ways, Lynn says finding a middle ground is key.

"The best option likely would be a negotiated agreement that contemplates that Mrs. Collins gets to move on with her professional reputation intact, and the board gets to move forward with new leadership," said Lynn.

Lynn also says that superintendents don't stay put in Vermont very long. In this year alone, one-quarter of all superintendents in the state have turned over. WCAX News reached out to the school board chair who declined to comment on personnel issues. Collins declined to comment as well.

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