Superintendent’s Contract Terminated and Renegotiated

Right To KnowAfter only one year and two months, Dr. Michael Robinson’s contract as Smyth County Superintendent of Schools is being terminated, effective immediately (as of September 8th) and renegotiated for what is at present, an undisclosed reason. (see September 8th Minutes)  Dr. Robinson’s contract as Superintendent had an original term of July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2017.

This follows hot on the heels of the Smyth County School Board’s recent decision in May 2014 to consolidate Sugar Grove School and another decision to change the name of our school despite accurate community and public input. (more details on that here)

The termination of the original existing contract and the initiation of a new contract seems to indicate that employment will be bumped up one more year to 2018. This cannot possibly be the sole factor in a contract re-negotiation when you’re talking in terms of a figure close to one half million dollars in salary plus benefits over the course of that period of time. It seems much more may be up for grabs here.

You’re probably wondering at this point, why you haven’t read about any of this in the Smyth County News and Messenger–that’s because they never covered it. Imagine that! They won’t cover something that may raise question as to the School Board’s activities but they will cover and even promote the negative outcomes that befall our community as a result of these actions. In other words, this would suggest that the school board has the ability to dictate what is and is not published and to what extent. Apparently, the renegotiation of a contract totaling in value nearly one half million dollars is not the sort of thing that gets their attention even if that figure is reasonably close to the amount the school board claims they saved by consolidating Sugar Grove School. It’s the sort of thing they hope doesn’t get anyone’s attention. In fact, we will see what sort of attention it gets if they respond to the inquiry made here.

An important factor to look at is the school board’s reasoning behind this renegotiation given in the September 8th minutes linked above. Here’s the except:

On motion by Mr. Grinstead, seconded by Mr. Veselik, by 6-0 vote, the Board in recognition of Dr. Robinson’s outstanding performance and with Dr. Robinson’s concurrence, terminated the division superintendent’s current appointment and employment, effective September 8, 2014; appoint and employ him to a term of four (4) years as division superintendent beginning July 1, 2014 and ending June 30, 2018; and authorize and direct the Chairman to finalize and execute on behalf of the Board a new contract with Dr. Robinson on terms substantially consistent with terms negotiated and agreed to by all parties.

It seems that the board decided to make this change based upon “Dr. Robinson’s outstanding performance and with Dr. Robinson’s concurrence.”  In light of everything negative that has taken place in our community at the hands of the Smyth County School Board, they would have no reason or justification to cite “outstanding performance” of the Superintendent based upon actual recent events, apparent lack of availability of funds, and so on. Instead, they should be issuing a warning and reevaluating Dr. Robinson’s poor performance, reckless spending, agenda to close and consolidate schools and harm small rural communities like Sugar Grove while school systems in surrounding counties are simultaneously in better financial standing by comparison and operating at lower administrative cost.

The fact that this was with Dr. Robinson’s concurrence makes it even that much more questionable–did he request it of the board? Was this just another one of their unanimous votes to continue pandering to the Superintendent? Is it an attempt to swallow up extra monies that just happen to be lying around in order to make it disappear? Who knows. These matters need to be scrutinized until the truth is found!

The minutes go on to outline that the Chairman, Jesse Choate–who is also the elected representative of the Rye Valley District, more specifically, Sugar Grove School–has been issued a directive by the school board to “finalize and execute on behalf of the board a new contract with Dr. Robinson on terms substantially consistent with terms negotiated and agreed to by all parties.”  This means that our school board representative will be sitting down with the Superintendent to draft a new contract with new terms that are unknown to the public at this time and are based upon what the two of them mutually agree upon. It is highly likely that funds that would be available for later use in our area may be unavailable in the future because they’ve been moved or set aside to cover Dr. Robinson’s new contract.

I predict that by the end of Dr. Robinson’s 4 year term ending in 2018 outlined in this new contract, Sugar Grove School will have been closed due to a lack of funds, Dr. Robinson will have accepted employment elsewhere and along with it, flushed all of your taxpayer dollars down the toilet on his pet projects therefore leaving nothing but ruin in Sugar Grove and Smyth County–lastly, our school board representative will probably walk away from the storm before the dust clears and before our school is closed under the presumption of retirement after 25 long years of service likely labeled as “excellent” to the community maintaining that he kept it open all the while (based upon his “no” vote to consolidate), blame will then shift to whoever happens to take his place on the school board. It should not go unstated that the above mentioned “no” vote on consolidation of Sugar Grove School was forced by a petition containing 971 signatures from the Rye Valley District indicating no changes to our school and a request to seek other alternatives.

Dr. Robinson does not need a new contract, more money or additional benefits, he needs to be removed as Superintendent of Smyth County Schools before more damage is done to our small rural communities in Smyth County. Likewise, the 7 members of the current school board need to be thoroughly evaluated based upon performance and representation of their areas. Most of these individuals should be recalled from office based upon poor performance, questionable continuous unanimous voting and lack of ability to do the jobs they were elected to do–specifically their lack of ability as a board to vote “no” when Dr. Robinson suggests spending more money while maintaining that certain targeted schools are costing more to keep open than others in the county.

This is a wake up call for the entire Sugar Grove community–you need to open your eyes, put your personal affiliations aside and see the political side of things for what they are. You need to do what is absolutely necessary to maintain the resources we already have in our community because they are dwindling one by one. The school is one of our most valuable resources. Part of it has already been taken away. The new name change was just the proverbial period at the end of the death sentence letting us know that our school has been permanently downsized and relegated to an elementary school; it will never return to a Combined school after 2014 just as it never returned to a high school after 1969. Even if the enrollment numbers do happen to increase in future years. The school board is effectively taking every step they can in a direction that will damage Sugar Grove for many decades to come.

The time to show up at meetings is NOW. The time to hold your elected officials accountable to the community is NOW. Likewise, the time to begin is NOW!


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  1. Pingback: Follow Up: Superintendent’s Contract Renegotiation | Sugar Grove Virginia

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