We recently became aware that the Madison County School Board voted at its October meeting to extend school superintendent Dr. Matthew Eberhardt’s contract for an additional year, through June 30, 2018. And while we have faith in the superintendent and think he does a great job tackling what has to be an extremely difficult role, we can’t help but question the timing of the board’s vote. Two new board members will take office in January, both of whom ran unopposed in the November election and both of whom have extensive backgrounds in education as former school employees.
The Code of Virginia prohibits school boards from renegotiating superintendent contracts in November and December or “during the period following the election or appointment of new members and the date such members are qualified and assume office.” This is an effort to not tie the hands of the new board members and while October isn’t technically included in this statute, doesn’t this vote essentially do the same thing?
We have no issues with the school board extending Dr. Eberhardt’s contract and agree that the decision is the board’s to make, but the timing and the handling of the issue are curious. After all, why wasn’t more information released about the decision? A board proud of an amazing employee should shout it from the rooftops or at least include it in the monthly board communications posted on the website—of which there is none for the October meeting.
Local government should realize that not communicating valuable information is almost the same in the eyes of the public as purposefully withholding it. There’s a reason why so many FOIA cases are filed locally. The citizens have a vested interest in what goes on within the county, especially at the school level where they trust their children will be well-educated and where the county apportions the bulk of their taxes. Our elected officials would do well to remember that communicating with their constituents is a two-way street and not one that’s only open every four years.
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