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Hamilton Co. School Board start buyout negotiations with Supt. Rick Smith

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HAMILTON COUNTY, TN (WRCB) -

An emotional outburst from one Hamilton County school board member as they agreed to enter into exit buyout negotiations with Superintendent Rick Smith. 

"This man deserves to be innocent until he is proven guilty!" District 8 Representative David Testerman yelled during Thursday's school board meeting, "He deserves that and this is wrong what we're doing!"

View Testerman's full statement here.

Three members voted against the move including Testerman, Dr. Greg Martin (Dist. 3) and Rhonda Thurman (Dist. 1). Thurman says she needs more information before agreeing to use taxpayer dollars.

"I'm looking for were all the policies followed, what did you know and when did you know it? Those are the things I'm looking for," Thurman added. 

"This is not something the board has forced me to do or even asked me to do. This is something I feel is important to do," Smith told the audience Thursday. 

Smith says he made the decision after realizing the school system hasn't been able to move forward nearly one month after learning an Ooltewah basketball player was raped by his teammates. 

 "We have spent two full weeks in meetings like this that just aren't things that the school board or superintendent need to be focused on. So I think my decision to start this process at this point is important to us," Smith said. 

Sources tell Eyewitness News that Smith could request a payment of $270,000 plus benefits that include sick day payments, resulting in a total package of around $350,000. That number could change during negotiations. 

The buyout process is laid out by state law and would require board members to wait 15 days after receiving a written proposal before voting to accept or deny it. Hamilton County Schools Attorney Scott Bennett says Smith will continue to serve the duties of superintendent until then. 

It will then be up to school board members to choose an interim superintendent. 

"They can choose someone from inside the system, they can choose someone from outside the system, a retired educator from somewhere else in the state. They have complete discretion about how to do that," Bennett added. 

The search for a new superintendent is one that could take several months, especially if it's expanded nationally, which some indicated that could happen during Thursday's meeting. 

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