Scales wants to cut Deputy Supt. Rick Smith's job - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Scales wants to cut Deputy Supt. Rick Smith's job

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By David Carroll

dcarroll@wrcbtv.com

CHATTANOOGA (WRCB)- Hamilton County Superintendent Dr. Jim Scales is gearing up for "a political battle he cannot win," according to one School Board member.

District 1 representative Rhonda Thurman said she is "outraged" by Scales' plan to eliminate Deputy Supt. Rick Smith from the Central Office.  Scales had promised to make cuts in the Central Office, but Thurman said, "Rick Smith is a local man, and knows more about the school district than Dr. Scales and his hired hands from out of town.  This is just the latest in a series of bad decisions by Dr. Scales."

At a recent School Board meeting, Scales acknowledged that a shortfall of almost $14 million would require serious cuts, but declined to name employees or positions that would be on the chopping block.  Earlier Monday, he told several Board members individually of his plans, which would eliminate Smith's position as well as two other top jobs:  Chief Finance Officer, which was recently vacated by Tommy Kranz, and Assistant Superitendent of Campus Operations Ray Swoffard, who reportedly plans to retire at the end of the school year.  Kranz's post is being filled temporarily by longtime finance office employee Christie Jordan.

Both Smith and Swoffard are paid in excess of $108,000 per year.  Thurman says Danielle Clark, whose position was targeted by County Commissioner Tim Boyd last week, would remain under Scales' plan, "and her role will be enhanced."  Thurman said, "This proves Dr. Scales doesn't know what he's doing."

At a recent Board meeting, District 4 representative George Ricks said he is against all cuts, saying the County Commission should step up and provide a property tax increase to prevent cutting personnel or programs.  However, several Commissioners have been quoted recently as saying there is no chance of that happening.

Ricks is one of four Board members (along with Jeffery Wilson, Chip Baker and Linda Mosley) who have been largely supportive of Dr. Scales' programs.  But since the 2010 election, the other five Board members (including three newly elected members) have frequently been critical of the superintendent.

The budget cut issue will likely lead to a showdown over the future of Dr. Scales' employment as superintendent.  His contract expires June 30, 2012, but there is speculation that talks are underway to negotiate an earlier exit.

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