UPDATEUpdated with more information at 8:40 p.m.Second update at 10:30 p.m.
Dr. Susan Enfield at the school board meeting tonight
The Seattle School Board voted unanimously tonight to terminate the employment of Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson's contract without cause, which means she will get a severance payment equaling 12 months of her salary ($264,000) and $9,800 in estimated benefits.
The board also voted unanimously to terminate the contract of the district's Chief Financial and Operations Officer Don Kennedy, as well as voted 6-1 to appoint Chief Academic Officer Dr. Susan Enfield as interim superintendent. Enfield's contract will run until June 2012.
Although an independent investigation conducted by attorney Patricia Eakes on behalf of the school board found that neither Goodloe-Johnson nor Kennedy had done anything wrong, it said that they had enough knowledge to prevent the district's financial scandal. A state audit revealed last week that the district spent $1.8 million on a contractual small business program which never benefited the Seattle school district, and instead benefited a private company owned by former district employee Silas Potter. Eakes' report also said that Goodloe-Johnson had been aware that external consultants the Sutor Group had warned the district about Potter, but she never discussed the report with the school board.
Director Betty Patu, who cast the sole dissenting vote for Enfield's appointment, said she did not support many of Enfield's earlier decisions in the district, including closing down programs without any explanation. "You should have met with community organizations before closing these programs down," said Patu.
"I will be supporting this recommendation, it is my feeling that Dr. Enfield is a quality educator, someone who has dedicated her life to children, her background as an ESL teacher tells me she is incredibly aware at the most basic level of what it means to educate children," said Director Harrium Martin-Morris.
Steve Sundquist: "angry and disappointed"
"She's the real deal," said Director Sherry Carr. "In my work with her she has proven to be very capable and has strong management skills," said Director Peter Maier. "Important to me in these unsettling times is that Dr. Enfield has very strong people skills, which will be needed at this moment."
"This is a very difficult time for us," Enfield said, appearing for a few minutes after the board's vote. "Our immediate priority is to restore public trust." Enfield said that the district had already begun a search for an interim chief financial officer and chief operating officer. "I will make sure that we hire only the best people for these positions," she said. Enfield also committed to being out in the community, listening to questions and concerns. "I will continue with an open door policy," she said. "I am committed to strengthening communication with the district and city and community partners."
Enfield acknowledged that it was a challenging time for the district, but that it "also presents us with an opportunity to come together." Enfield's contract is affective immediately.
The district's Legal Counsel Noel Treat said that terminating Goodloe-Johnson's contract "without cause" avoids the potential litigation, liability, and legal costs associated with a for cause termination. Efforts on the part of the board to reach a "mutual termination agreement" with Goodloe-Johnson were unsuccessful.
An outside consultant had agreed that the board would have a very difficult time "supporting a for-cause termination," Treat said. The board expressed anger and shock over the recent audit report and said that the district's culture of fear and secrecy needs to change. "There were a series of red flags that went unheeded, there was fear of reprisal, and many failed to act on complaints," said School Board President Steve Sundquist.
Director Peter Meier said that he had received a copy of the Sutor report and was told by Potter's boss Fred Stephens that Potter was no longer managing the small business program. But Meier found out later that this was not the case and that the program had instead expanded under Potter during a hiring freeze. "I have lost confidence in Maria Goodloe-Johnson and I believe change is necessary," he said.
School board Director Michael DeBell called "the financial scandal, the cronyism, and the obvious lack of transparency an insult" to students and Seattle taxpayers. "I want to apologize to you, your taxes were wasted on an ill-conceived and poorly-managed program," he said. Without naming names, he expressed disappointment that no apology had been offered by top management.
DeBell said that even before the financial scandal took place, the most damaging thing had been the Seattle teachers union vote of "no confidence" on Goodloe-Johnson. He urged everyone to speak up when they came across corruption and wrongdoing in the district, saying, "we can't hide the bad news."
"It's a painful decision, painful situation," said Sundquist. "I believe Maria Goodloe-Johnson will leave a legacy that is worth our contemplation. I believe her heart has been in the right place. Nevertheless, she must be held accountable for her failure and the failure of her team."