UPDATE: Supt. Rick Smith plans to remain Hamilton Co. Superinten - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

UPDATE: Supt. Rick Smith plans to remain Hamilton Co. Superintendent

Posted: Updated:
Hamilton County School Supt. Rick Smith during Tuesday's interview WRCBtv.com photos Hamilton County School Supt. Rick Smith during Tuesday's interview WRCBtv.com photos
CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -

UPDATE: Hamilton County Superintendent Rick Smith says he plans to remain on the job through the end of his contract, which runs through June 2019. Smith spoke with reporters Tuesday for the first time in several weeks.

Here's the entire press conference held by superintendent Smith Tuesday:

This comes one day after board members decided keeping Smith was better than paying him to leave. They voted 5-4 not to buyout his contract for $269,000 dollars. A motion by Board member Greg Martin, which would have terminated Smith, failed for lack of a second.

Smith says he's ready to get back to work. He knows he will have to regain the public's trust and confidence in the school system. He says the last few months (since the December 2015 Ooltewah basketball rape investigation) have been difficult for his family. He says he offered up a buyout proposal only because he didn't want to hold the community back from healing.

"I never said I didn't want the job," Smith said. "I believe what I said was, and this is how much this means to me, if ever there comes a time that I'm in the way of progress of this school system, I need to get out of the way. It's important for me to never think that I am a barrier of the school system and I mean it."  Smith became emotional, leaving the room for almost a minute to compose himself. He said he had offered a buyout proposal because of negativity, and he felt he had become a distraction.  

Smith says he's focused on two priorities as he begins the recovery from what he calls three months of distractions, since the Ooltewah scandal came to light. First, repairing relationships with the School Board.  Several Board members have complained about poor communication with them, the media, and with parents.  Smith says he'll be more open with Board members, and he now plans to hire a communications director.  "I'm not a communicator, I'm an educator," he said.

Second, Smith says he must begin repairing relationships with the public.  He admits his reputation has taken a hit, as well as that of the school district.  He said he plans to encourage all employees to do what they do best, educating kids. "I plan to be much more vocal," he said. "You haven't heard much from me during the past ten weeks, and that will change," he said.

Smith says he plans to continue his relationship with the Chamber of Commerce and Chattanooga 2.0, in their current endeavor to bring business and community support to Hamilton County schools. "We have the same goals," he said.  I've been a part of that since the beginning."

Smith admitted the recent controversy had taken a toll on him personally.  "It's been hard.  I've taken a lot of criticism. But I also have a lot of support.  I have a great staff, and they were here for me last night, and they were in my office early this morning.  I must have gotten a hundred messages today, and they're all positive."

PREVIOUS STORY: Hamilton County School Board members made a U-turn Monday afternoon, deciding to embrace Superintendent Rick Smith instead of setting him free.  Given the opportunity to buy out Smith's contract at a cost of $269,000, Board members decided in a 5-4 vote that they would not pay Smith for doing nothing.  Instead, they found themselves at a stalemate, declining to second a motion from Greg Martin to terminate Smith, then deciding to encourage Smith to stay on the job.

Voting for the buyout were David Testerman, Joe Galloway, George Ricks and Jonathan Welch.  They were outnumbered by Rhonda Thurman, Greg Martin, Donna Horn, Steve Highlander and Karitsa Mosley.  Mosley, who represents the Brainerd area in District 5, said she had wavered back and forth on the issue, deciding her vote only when entering the Board room on Monday.

"I was in favor of a buyout because I didn't want to fire the man. I knew if we fired him, it would have cost much more in the long run," District 4 member George Ricks, Sr. said. 

"He was the one that wanted to leave and if he wants to leave then he just needs to leave. I don't think it's fair to ask the taxpayers to pay him if he's not working. If he wants to get paid, he should work," District 1 member Rhonda Thurman added. 

Smith declined comment after the meeting.  Board members encouraged him to do a better job of communicating with them, the public and the media.  He had come under fire for his handling of the recent Ooltewah High School rape case, which occurred during a basketball tournament in Gatlinburg last December.  

"We're not at the time that we just need to move forward. Not forget what happened in the past but to learn from it and that experience and move forward to be a better school system," District 5 member Karitsa Mosley said. 

But board members like Dr. Greg Martin, who represents District 3, made it clear that they expect better communication from the superintendent. 

"There've been many times that I've not been communicated with, not just with Ooltewah. There've been all kind of things that I've found out through the news about a bus wreck or something happened in a school that I found out at 6:00 at night when I sat down and watched the Ti-Vo'd news," Martin said during Monday's special called meeting.

"We expect to be kept informed and we expect things to be a whole lot different than they are now," Thurman added. 

A special called session that had been scheduled for Thursday has been cancelled.  Board members had expected to choose an interim superintendent to replace Smith, whose departure was seemingly a foregone conclusion.  Four people had applied for that position.

School Patrol

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

More>>

  • NewsMore>>

  • Residents tour CPD's Real Time Intelligence Center with Chief Roddy

    Residents tour CPD's Real Time Intelligence Center with Chief Roddy

    Wednesday, August 23 2017 10:58 PM EDT2017-08-24 02:58:35 GMT
    Photo by WRCB reporter Taneisha Cordell.Photo by WRCB reporter Taneisha Cordell.

    Chief David Roddy took about two dozen people on a tour of the department's Real Time Intelligence Center (RTIC).  RTIC was unveiled back in March. It's a place where investigators can monitor real time cameras, review video footage and store digital data. 

    More

    Chief David Roddy took about two dozen people on a tour of the department's Real Time Intelligence Center (RTIC).  RTIC was unveiled back in March. It's a place where investigators can monitor real time cameras, review video footage and store digital data. 

    More
  • 10 Things to Know for Thursday

    10 Things to Know for Thursday

    Wednesday, August 23 2017 10:57 PM EDT2017-08-24 02:57:22 GMT
    Among 10 Things to Know: Trump revisits Charlottesville comments in angry speech in Phoenix; US Navy dismisses 7th Fleet commander after warship accidents; ESPN broadcaster Robert Lee taken off University of...More
    Among 10 Things to Know: Trump revisits Charlottesville comments in angry speech in Phoenix; US Navy dismisses 7th Fleet commander after warship accidents; ESPN broadcaster Robert Lee taken off University of Virginia football game because of his name.More
  • Walmart joins forces with Google on voice-activated shopping

    Walmart joins forces with Google on voice-activated shopping

    Wednesday, August 23 2017 10:57 PM EDT2017-08-24 02:57:11 GMT
    Walmart dives into voice-activated shopping in partnership with Google.More
    Walmart dives into voice-activated shopping in partnership with Google.More
Powered by Frankly