FLOYD — Terry Arbogast announced Monday that he will step down as superintendent of Floyd County Public Schools on Sept. 30, three months before his planned retirement.
His early departure will help ease a new superintendent into the position before the budget process begins, he said.
The decision comes on the heels of a transparency scandal about his salary, contracts and budget accounting that took hold this year and caused county officials to deny funding to the district and, particularly, his office.
Arbogast said his decision — which the school board unanimously approved after more than an hour in closed session — had nothing to do with the recent turmoil.
“The opportunity to get a superintendent on board as quickly as possible is important for the school system,” Arbogast said at the school board meeting.
The 64-year-old has been superintendent for 18 years. He planned to retire in December after completing a six-month contract extension that would begin in July.
Board member Linda King said after the meeting that the officials didn’t ask Arbogast to leave early. The recent transparency trouble, however, weighed into the decision.
“I think it’s time to get a new start,” she said. “I think the public’s ready for that.”
Arbogast’s departure will mark the end to what many community members call the school board’s “good old boy” relationship with their longtime superintendent. Except for King, elected in 2009, the board’s four other members — Chairman Doug Phillips, David Sulzen, Clay Link and Margaret Hubbard — have served for at least 16 years.
School board members and some county supervisors have applauded Arbogast for improving the district’s quality during his tenure.
“There’s many good things to think about,” Arbogast said when asked to sum up his largest accomplishments. “Eighteen years is a long time.”
The process to find a new superintendent began early this month, when board members asked county residents to weigh in and tapped the Virginia School Boards Association for help. All applications for the job are due by June 30.
The results from an online survey on what residents would like to see in the next superintendent colored Monday’s meeting.
More than half of 55 respondents said they wanted honesty in the district’s new leader. Many asked for Arbogast’s successor to rebuild trust in the district; excel at communication with teachers, the public and the board of supervisors; and tame some expenses while finding ways to pay teachers more.
When the school district submitted its budget to the county this year, supervisors questioned the amount shown for the superintendent’s board-approved pay.
Arbogast has received $118,000 every year since 2008-2009, but has listed a $98,000 salary and drawn extra from savings elsewhere.
Recently, district teachers fought unsuccessfully for their first raise in four years. County residents also accepted a real estate tax increase of 3 cents, to 50 cents per $100 assessed value.
District residents’ and employees’ unhappiness with Arbogast peaked this month when The Roanoke Times reported that Arbogast hasn’t signed a written contract since 1995, and that the board had agreed to many of his raises without public votes. His 2008 contract agreement doesn’t include compensation figures.
Besides his $118,000 base salary, Arbogast earns $18,000 a year for use of his truck and $31,800 for retirement.
Arbogast will collect $50 for every unused sick day at the end of his tenure, Phillips said at the meeting. The superintendent didn’t know Monday how many sick days he has left. He will receive no severance package other than what’s provided by the state for all district employees, Phillips added.
The county supervisors decided last week to pull $125,000 from the administrative, attendance and health budget and hand it to district employees in hope of raises. This year, they also denied Arbogast’s request to increase the school system’s budget by $824,000.
The school board hasn’t responded as to how it will satisfy the supervisors’ mandate.
(May 24, 2011)