At a special meeting Monday evening, the county school board voted unanimously, but with some friction, to release Franklin County High School Principal Chip Clatto about six weeks ahead of the end of his contract June 30.
The move came after School Board Member Pam Marshall confronted Superintendent Traci Moses about the circumstances surrounding Clatto’s departure on Friday afternoon, May 12.
In her report. Moses told the board that agreement had been reached between the district administration and Clatto that his last official day would be Monday, May 22. She said the principal had asked to be released early from his contract, as he had a commitment to be in Thomasville, Georgia on May 23, where he has accepted a new job as the principal of the high school there.
In order to paid for his accrued leave time, Clatto would have to be finished with his work on May 12, Moses said.
"He emailed on Friday to request his last day be Monday, May 15,” wrote Karen Peddie, the county’s director of human resources’, in an email. “Given the fact that high school students had finals on Monday and Tuesday, he was allowed to end his contract on Friday instead.”
Marshall suggested the matter had not been handled as smoothly as Moses made out. She said Clatto had wanted to be on the job Monday, in hopes of offering a formal goodbye to students and staff.
“He got a call (Friday) and was told to have all his stuff packed up,” said Marshall. “That whole thing seems very strange to me and a lot of people in the community were upset by that.
“He was told at 4 p.m. on Friday to pack up. This man would not have walked out and not said goodbye to these kids,” she said.
Moses said back and forth conversations between Clatto and the administration over the past two weeks had addressed how he could use his accrued week of leave time. Clatto was paid an annual salary of about $85,000, so a week’s pay would be in the neighborhood of $1,600.
Moses said Clatto made the choice when would be his last day, and that Peddie’s timetable was in keeping with his requests. In an interview outside of the meeting. Moses said she did not think it was a good idea to disrupt testing with a farewell assembly, but that Clatto would be welcome to come back on one of the last days to say his goodbyes.
“I would love for him to come back and talk to the staff and students,” she told the board.
Clatto did not attend Tuesday’s senior recognition night, and it was unclear whether he would be on hand for this Friday’s graduation.
“My concern is for him not to be there for graduation would be sad for our students,” said School Board Member Teresa Ann Martin. “I’m expecting him to be there.”
Marshall also voiced concern that Clatto had been treated brusquely on the afternoon of his departure, by being escorted from the building by staff members.
“I helped him carry his stuff,” Bud Strange, the district’s head of maintenance, told the school board.
In an email, Peddie wrote that Clatto had not been ordered to leave the building.
“He was offered assistance in packing his belongings. His keys were collected and access was removed because it was his last day of employment,” ,” she wrote.
“It’s very hard to get any understanding of this when he’s not here and we’re getting one side of the story,” Martin said. “I do wish Mr. Clatto well. I know it’s difficult for everyone. He will be dearly missed in our county. I feel like he’s done a great job.”
School Board Member George Thompson moved, and Carl Whaley seconded, a motion to release Clatto from his one-year contract on May 22. School Board Attorney Barbara Sanders told Marshall that a separate vote was not needed to accept the resignation Clatto presented several months ago, since he was under a one-year contract set to expire June 30.
Prior to the vote, Thompson noted that he had received calls that Clatto still had to finish some teacher evaluations, and that some of the ones he completed had been only four minutes long.
Moses said it was her understanding that 12 teacher evaluations still remained to be completed by the school administration.
Marshall said she thought that since Clatto had not requested to be off Monday, May 15, that he should be paid for that day.
The board voted unanimously to release Clatto from his contract, effective May 22. Moses has named district administrator Sue Summers to serve as interim principal until the school board hires Clatto’s replacement in the weeks ahead.
At the special meeting, the board also hired three teachers, and Marshall was the lone no vote on each one. She indicated that this was not because she opposed the hirings per se, but because the meeting packet did not include copies of three reference letters for each applicant, as has been the protocol.
“The application process is very through,” said Moses. “I’m confident in recommending them to you.”
The board hired Gerald Jenkins as the new Kindergarten through 12th grade physical education teacher, John Cooper IV, as the new ESE teacher, and Ruben Uribe, as the new Spanish teacher.