Embattled Superintendent says he'll step down Dec. 31
HARRODSBURG - Those who thought a resolution to the saga of Superintendent Bruce Johnson and the Mercer County Board of Education had been reached should remove their bookmarks, as a surprising new chapter has been written.Tuesday night at the end of a special board meeting, Chairwoman Glynda Short read a short letter from Johnson announcing his resignation as superintendent effective Dec. 31.The announcement came as a shock to not only those in the audience but also to board members and staff. Short said she had received the letter only a few moments before the meeting. To call the last two months tumultuous for Johnson and the board would likely be regarded as an understatement, and Tuesday's turn would seem to mark the second time in the span of a few weeks that Johnson has announced his intention to leave the district.In early May, Mercer announced a vast number of budget cuts for next school year, including elimination of 42 jobs and reduction of the kindergarten program from full day to half day.This, and Johnson's ensuing proposal of a 3.5 percent salary cut for all district
employees as a way to hypothetically fund full-day kindergarten, sparked
controversy.Eventually, full-day kindergarten was saved by moving around $250,000 in capital outlay funds, and the idea of salary cuts was scrapped. But during a near-month long period of uncertainty when the budget remained tabled and the capital outlay funds solution was a secret, Johnson came under heavy scrutiny, and research conducted by The Advocate-Messenger confirmed what was widely rumored: Johnson was by far the area's highest paid superintendent, earning $155,827 this year.In late May, Johnson offered the school board the option to release him from his contract. At a May 27 meeting, the board met behind closed doors for 2-1/2 hours to discuss personnel but said no action would be taken.Two days later, the 2008-09 budget was approved, with the capital outlay plan finally being revealed. Johnson said he wished to clarify his position and withdrew the option he'd placed before the board."If I decide to retire," Johnson said, "I will put in writing to the board asking them
to release me from my contract." And now he has. Johnson's announcement comes merely days before his new contract, which was signed Jan. 31, was to take effect. The contract would have started July 1 and run through June 30, 2012."I have to say that I'm not totally surprised by it, but I'm not necessarily happy about it," said Short. Erin Milburn, a teacher at the high school who served as a teacher representative at the meetings, often questioning board policy and encouraging amendments to make information more accessible, was also present at the meeting. She praised Johnson in what she called "a smart move.""I think it shows wisdom on his part, and I think the decision was done with dignity and with respect to the chaos that's been going on," said Milburn. "He's trying to do the right thing, and I appreciate that." ...