BREAKING: Supt. Rick Smith expected to ask School Board for exit - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

BREAKING: Supt. Rick Smith expected to ask School Board for exit buyout

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Hamilton County Superintendent Rick Smith is expected to ask School Board members for an exit buyout. Smith is expected to make his announcement at Thursday's School Board meeting.  Sources tell Eyewitness News that Smith could request a payment of $275,000 plus benefits that include sick day payments, resulting in a total package of around $350,000.

Smith has come under fire in recent weeks for his handling of the December 22 Ooltewah High basketball rape/assault, which occurred in Gatlinburg.  Smith was criticized for a delayed public response, false reports of a gag order from Sevier County authorities, and a failure to report the crime, which resulted in charges against three Ooltewah staff members who were in Gatlinburg at the time of the incident.  Critics have also complained about the team playing four additional games after the incident, and the school staffers being allowed to work until charges were filed.

Board members are believed to be divided on whether to agree to Smith's terms.  He is under contract through July of 2019, at almost $200,000 per year plus benefits.  Some Board members are against any buyout, but are unsure if Smith is guilty of any wrongdoing that could be used to void his contract.  Others are said to be in favor of a quick exit, believing Smith's image has taken a beating, and the community has lost confidence in his leadership.

One Board member, who asked not to be identified, said while the public might be opposed to a six-figure buyout, a losing court battle could end up costing taxpayers the full $700,000 remaining in Smith's contract plus attorney fees.

READ MORE | Channel 3's coverage of the Ooltewah assault investigation

It is believed that some of Smith's longtime department heads might also choose to leave if Smith departs, creating a vacuum of leadership in the central office.  It is unknown who the Board might select to provide interim or long-term leadership in the event of Smith's departure.  

School Patrol

David Carroll covers education news and issues at schools across the Tennessee Valley.


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