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June 10, 2009
Colonial Beach school officials’ drop-out rate on the rise
COLONIAL BEACH, Virginia (STPNS) -- At Wednesday’s work session, the Colonial Beach School Board announced its acceptance of board member Rocky Denson’s resignation, effective June 30, and decided to enlist the services of the Virginia School Board Association to find a replacement for Robert Luttrell, who has been filling the position of superintendent since Howard retired last year.
This adds two more names to the list of three employees who left last year after an investigation prompted by concerns from chairman Tim Trivett. The school board accepted the resignations of grant writer Charlotte Taylor-Hall and high school guidance counselor Gregg Forbes, as well as the retirement of former school superintendant Alice Howard effective August 2008.
New information provided to the state prompted the confiscation of finance director Barbara Worrell’s computer and coincided with her going on administrative leave for an unknown period of time.
Left to fill the gap was Worrell’s assistant, who resigned Monday, June 1.
Trouble has been brewing for chairman Tim Trivett, particularly in regard to statements made in an open meeting regarding Luttrell’s contract. A recent NAACP meeting conducted in Colonial Beach sparked questions about the legality of Luttrell’s term of employment.
At a Council Work Session June 1, Trivett announced that Luttrell would be here for another two years. It appears that announcement was premature.
Trivett was responding to councilman Ronald Ridgely, who had asked Trivett to clear up a statement made by school board member Ann Congdon. Congdon challenged Trivett’s statement that the school board voted unanimously to renew Luttrell’s contract for two and a half years.
Trivett produced a contract between the school board and Luttrell, minutes from the January 21 school board meeting, as well as a letter from the school board’s attorney, Reed Smith, to council members during a budget meeting.
The contract states, under the term of employment, “The board employs the superintendent from January 21, 2009 to June 30, 2009.” The contract was executed on January 21, but was not time stamped.
The minutes of the meeting on January 21 state that after a closed session, “it was moved by Mr. Looney and seconded by Mr. Denson to appoint Mr. Robert Luttrell, part-time superintendent for Colonial Beach Schools through June 30, 2009. This motion was unanimously carried.”
In a letter to Tim Trivett from atttorney Reed Smith, dated May 19, 2009, Reed states the facts as he understood them — that the school board received permission from the Board of Education pursuant to §22.1-62B of the Code of Virginia to appoint a part-time superintendent to replace Howard.
“I advised you that the school board had to appoint Mr. Luttrell for a minimum term of at least two years,” Smith said. He goes on to quote §22.1-60 which provides, “division superintendent shall serve for an initial term of not less than two nor more than four years.” And that “all contract terms for superintendents shall expire on June 30.”
Tim Trivett has interpreted Smith’s letter to mean that Luttrell’s contract (from Jan. 21, 2009, to June 30, 2009) was automatically renewed until June 30, 2011, when in fact Smith’s letter does not say that.
It states, “For example, if Mr. Luttrell was appointed division superintendent effective January 1, 2009, his initial term and contract was required to extend to June 30, 2011, or two years and six months.” The operative words being “was required.”
However, in the wake of all the confusion after a closed session of the Colonial Beach School Board at its monthly work session, the board announced its acceptance of school board member Rocky Denson’s resignation effective June 30. The board moved to request the Virginia School Board Association conduct a search for a part-time or full-time superintendant for Colonial Beach Public Schools at Luttrell’s request.
When asked why, superintendant Luttrell said: “Originally I had planned to only be here for 90 days. I came out of retirement to come here and commuted for several months. I finally found a place in town that kept me from home three nights a week, which was hard on my wife.
“Although I have enjoyed my experiences here it is time for the school to start looking for a replacement,” Luttrell added.
Rocky Denson had one more year to finish his term as a school board member. When asked why he was resigning from the board he said: “It was a great experience to serve on the Colonial Beach School Board. I found it to be very rewarding. Our little town has some fantastic and gifted children, and they are being given a great education by dedicated educators. I want to spend more time with my family and work.”
Some people have noticed a “for sale” sign outside of Denson’s home, when asked if he had plans to move he replied: “If by some chance it sells this year, great, otherwise we are in no hurry. Our daughter Lauren will be graduating from Colonial Beach High School next year, then she will be off to college. We have no immediate plans to move.”
Denson has served on the board of directors for The Haven, a local shelter for victims of domestic violence and their children, which he describes as a blessing to the community. Denson currently serves on the board of directors for the King George YMCA.
In response to Denson’s resignation Chairman Trivett said, “I appreciate Mr. Denson's willingness to serve for the past seven years. I wish him the best, and have thanked him for his service.”
In regard to Luttrell’s request that the school search for a new superintendant, Trivett said: “He has done an outstanding job, and he has a two-year contract. However, he is retired and this position has been much more for him than a part-time position. He has worked many long hours that he wasn’t compensated for to get the job done. I appreciate and respect any decision that he may make.”
Trivett stated that the board will let the Virginia School Board Association decide how to go about replacing Luttrell, and the board will follow the Virginia State code section that deals with appointing a replacement for Denson.
At the close of last week’s work session, Trivett indicated there were more resignations. Board member Mike Looney said they would handle those at the next meeting.
So far there have been no announcements or visible action to replace Barbara Worrell.
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