MUSCLE SHOALS — Numerous school system employees and members of the public went to the city’s school board meeting Monday to have their say about whether Superintendent Jeff Wooten’s contract should he renewed.
After 30 minutes of comments and questions presented to school board members, most of those attendees got what they wanted: a postponement.
Numerous requests were made to postpone discussion on Wooten’s contract. Finally, board member Farrell Southern made a motion to call a special meeting for Monday night for the sole purpose of addressing Wooten’s contract, which is set to end June 30.
“I am going to talk, and I am going to talk a lot about this (at the special meeting),” Wooten said.
He has been superintendent for 11 years, and nearing the end of a five-year contract.
Board member Mike Elliott was not present at Monday’s meeting and some members of the audience expressed a belief that a full board should address the contract.
Many in attendance spoke in support of Wooten, praising the job he’s done. Some voiced the opinion that the board held the meeting on a federal holiday and without all board members present because they intended not to renew Wooten’s contract.
The district’s education association president, Sherry Isbell, admonished the board, saying the meeting violated the system’s own policy, which she said states that meetings are not to be held on holidays.
Board President Pam Doyle recessed the meeting at that point to call board attorney J.R. Brooks to get his opinion. Brooks said the meeting was not in violation since the board and Wooten agreed to the meeting date prior to the January board meeting.
The meeting continued and individuals continued speaking from the floor, mostly in support of Wooten.
Anxious to adjourn so some members could attend an event at Muscle Shoals High School, Doyle agreed to postpone the contract vote. Other agenda items were addressed, though.
In the work session prior to the regular meeting, Doyle asked for board discussion on Wooten’s contract, but there was none. That prompted some in the audience to question how a vote could be taken without discussion.
“It’s hard to sit and listen to a vote being taken on a man’s contract when we know nothing about it,” said Muscle Shoals resident John Bedford. “I’d like to know about that contract and why a ‘no’ vote.”
Neither Doyle nor board members addressed individuals complaints during the meeting.
Doyle told the audience the board isn’t required to publicly address the topic and that the group had acted independently in the deliberative process. She did not state what issues, if any, she has with Wooten’s performance,
She told the TimesDaily that the board was acting on the contract now because if Wooten’s contract isn’t renewed, there would be time to conduct a superintendent search.
“We’re trying to be responsible for leading this system and being visionary,” Doyle said.