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Ballowe, Gainesville school board settle for $190,000

Smith, Syfan dissent; former superintendent to receive two $95,000 payments

POSTED: September 1, 2008 5:00 a.m.
The Gainesville City Board of Education voted 3-2 to enter into a mutual termination agreement with former Gainesville school system Superintendent Steven Ballowe.

Phil Hartley, attorney for the Gainesville school board, said the board agreed to settle with Ballowe for $190,000, the equivalent of his salary last year without benefits. Hartley said the board will pay Ballowe in two $95,000 payments, one during this fiscal year and one during the next.

"(I aimed) just for a sense of fairness for both parties, and for the Gainesville Model to continue without interruptions," Ballowe said after the board’s vote.

The board began an executive session at 9 a.m. Wednesday at the Hilton Garden Inn on Browns Bridge Road. Ballowe and his attorney also spent the day in a different room at the hotel, mediating with the school board. At about 6:30 p.m., the board voted to enter into a mutual termination agreement with Ballowe.

School board member Sammy Smith and board Chairman David Syfan voted against the mutual agreement, Hartley said.

The board could have ended the contract with Ballowe in any one of three ways: determine that he was fired for cause, which would require a full hearing and possibly court proceedings; determine that he was fired without cause, which would require the board to pay Ballowe approximately $490,000; or end the conflict by coming to a mutual agreement.

According to the Fair Dismissal Act, a state law that applies to all educators in public schools, educators can be fired for acts including incompetency, insubordination, willful neglect of duties, immorality and "any other good and sufficient cause."

On July 3, the board cited fiscal irresponsibility as its primary cause for firing Ballowe. At the time, the school board was facing an estimated $6.5 million deficit.

"To go through a ‘for cause’ hearing would have required a long, drawn-out legal battle that would have cost the school board a great deal," Hartley said.

He said the board decided a mutual agreement, along with the two payments, is the best financial move for the school board to conclude the conflict with the former superintendent.

Ballowe, whom the board fired on July 3 with a 3-2 vote, was finishing out his first year of a three-year contract with the school board when he was fired.

The former Gainesville school system superintendent is now working in the Glynn County school system as an interim high school principal.



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