News 4 days ago

School board to extend new contract to superintendent

Cumberland Times-News — Greg Larry Cumberland Times-News, Md.

Feb. 15--CUMBERLAND -- The Allegany County Board of Education voted Tuesday to retain the services of David Cox, superintendent of schools, for another four-year term.

The five-member board voted to extend Cox's contract by a 3-1 vote, with board member Lorelee Farrell abstaining.

Board members Sara-Beth Bittinger, Tammy Fraley and Laurie Marchini voted in favor of a contract extension while Wayne Foote opposed it.

Farrell, who currently has a wrongful termination lawsuit pending against the school board, said she was advised not to vote by the school system's ethics panel. In a Times-News interview before the board meeting, Farrell said she received an email Tuesday afternoon from the panel recommending she not vote.

Both she and her husband Robert Farrell were employed by the school system but filed a lawsuit last year based on their separations from the school system.

Farrell spoke against extending a contract to Cox in remarks prior to the vote. However, had she cast a vote against the contract extension, the votes were still not present to prevent the action.

Cox addressed the audience following the vote:

"I want to thank you and express my most sincere appreciation to the majority of this board for their confidence in me and for the opportunity to work with you, and the entire board, for the next four years for the betterment of our school system and all Allegany County public schools students," said Cox.

In addressing those against his appointment, Cox said that while he respects their position, he is hopeful that he and the full board will be able to work together "to bring about the very best decisions and opportunities for the children" of Allegany County.

He also said he hoped board members would "pledge your support to focus more intently on issues that directly impact those who we are entrusted to serve, that being our nearly 8,700 students, and perhaps spend a little less time and energy in distractions from putting our children's interests first."

In his eighth year as superintendent, Cox's current contract expires June 30.

The meeting, emotional at times, featured passionate pleas both for and against the contract extension.

In addition to Fraley, Bittinger and Marchini, student member of the board Zachary Sterne and citizen Wesley Mason spoke in support of a new contract for Cox.

The vote took place at the regularly scheduled monthly meeting of the board at its Central Office on Washington Street.

The subject of leadership of the school system has been a contentious one for the last several months. Farrell and Foote have said publicly they were concerned over spending decisions under Cox and alleged poor morale and communication between teachers and the administration.

Board President Marchini, Bittinger and Fraley said the dissension toward Cox was "misdirected frustration" that stemmed from a tight funding climate and an increase in testing and guidelines stemming from Common Core requirements.

Fraley, a key swing vote, said she voted for the extension, but with a caveat.

"It's obvious there is a morale issue ... there is no doubt about it," Fraley said. "In my decision-making process, I reached out to find out the truth behind what the concerns were. I got pros and cons. It was a good 50-50, and that didn't make my decision any easier.

"I talked to teachers and they fear retribution. There must be some communication process where they don't feel that way.

"Yes, I want to renew the contract, but with a caveat. With a caveat of how can we bring the teachers back into this process? The teachers are our front line."

The details of the salary and benefits for Cox's new contract will be negotiated in the coming days.

Follow staff writer Greg Larry on Twitter @GregLarryCTN.


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