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Public shut out on why Bearden, BoE split up

Fayette County taxpayers are paying for Superintendent Jeff Bearden’s attorney’s fees in the secret clash that led to his “mutual termination agreement” with the Board of Education Sept. 19, plus a year’s salary and benefits while he looks for another job.

But don’t ask why. Bearden and the board also agreed to keep secret why the two-year marriage between the small-town Maine superintendent and the fractious five-member board went bust in the midst of a system financial meltdown and public controversy over closing beloved neighborhood schools.

At least one sentence in the lawyer-brokered agreement suggests part of what went on behind closed doors: “All parties specifically agree that as of the date of the agreement, they are aware of no evidence which would require a report to any federal, state or private regulatory agency with regard to the conduct of the other.”

Aside from matters of financial compensation, the agreement is clear that, despite the flurry of public speculation, what exactly led to the mutual termination agreement will remain secret from the public.

The terms of the agreement call for Bearden’s contract to remain in effect through Dec. 31. The agreement states that, following that date, he will receive an amount equal to one year of annual salary. That salary is $153,000, according to his most recent contract extension executed during the summer. Bearden will be responsible for all taxes owed from the compensation.

The agreement also calls for Bearden to receive funds necessary to pay the state health insurance premium or costs for one year, to receive an amount equal to the daily rate for any accumulated annual leave already accrued and up to $2,500 in documented attorney’s fees.

The bulk of the agreement dealt with issues that do not involve financial compensation. Rather, it dealt with what will not be said about the reason for the mutual termination agreement, something that has been the topic of significant speculation since the Sept. 19 meeting.

“This agreement is to compromise a disputed claim and for no other purpose. All parties agree, understand and acknowledge that the parties recognize, admit, or acknowledge no liability whatsoever to each other and that the parties specifically deny any such liability. Niether this agreement nor any payment hereunder is to be construed as an admission of liability on the part of the other party,” the agreement said.

“(Bearden and all members of the school board) agree not to make any oral or written communication to any person or entity that disparages, is intended to damage the reputation, or has the effect of damaging the reputation of another party. No statements will be made by any party to this agreement, including the individual members of the Board of Education, contrary to the terms of this agreement or the joint press release issued by the parties. All parties specifically agree that as of the date of the agreement, they are aware of no evidence which would require a report to any federal, state or private regulatory agency with regard to the conduct of the other,” the agreement said.

The press release referenced in the agreement states, “At a specially called meeting on Sept. 19, 2012, the superintendent and Board of Education agreed, in accordance with the terms of the superintendent’s employment agreement, to a mutual termination of that agreement effective Jan. 1, 2013. The Board of Education expresses its appreciation to Dr. Bearden for his leadership and many initiatives that have improved the school district during his service as superintendent. Dr. Bearden expresses his thanks and gratitude for the encouragement and most of all the support of staff, parents and the community. The superintendent and all board members are committed to a smooth and productive transition, continuing to address the needs of the school system and providing the best possible education for the students of Fayette County.”

— Edited and with additional material written by Cal Beverly



Cyclist's picture

Well at least we will not see him chase kids at the next PTC July 4 parade.

Caution - The Surgeon General has determined that constant blogging is an addiction that can cause a sedentary life style.

G35 Dude's picture

[quote]Well at least we will not see him chase kids at the next PTC July 4 parade.[/quote]

Are you confusing Dr Bearden with Mr Pressburg?

You can't use logic with an illogical person.

Cyclist's picture

I guess I did. My apologies to Dr. Bearden.

Caution - The Surgeon General has determined that constant blogging is an addiction that can cause a sedentary life style.

Losing Dr. Bearden is a loss for Fayette schools.

When the new FCBOE members are officially seated, let's hope that there is a training program for the board defining roles. Like the part on governing vs managing
Maybe SACS has a training program.

<strong>Removed for violating Terms of Use Agreement.</strong>

Let's be honest, you and others will be Voting Yes, simply because Yes voters don't have the guts to stand in front of the neighbor and take THEIR money at gun point. But if the YES voters can get the government to do the dirty work that's just fine, Individual Responsibility, Individual Liberty, and Individual Choice mean little to people that vote YES on tax increases.

That I voted no on a millage increases on the city council. If the ESPLOST does not pass, there will need to be a MASSIVE millage increase to offset the shortage. I have also voted to cut costs in PTC as well. I stood against the TSPLOST. I did not come at this lightly. And it's not an increase- the sales tax will stay the same as it is today.

This "esplost" is the way to "sneak" money to the Boe in an end round manner, it's a way to ensure people without children are charged, and a means to charge those who have ALREADY paid into the system. Bottom line it IS a tax revenue stream with then end result being The Money will end in the hands of our county's very own Al Capone. How about this novel concept, when times are good save a little for the bad days we ALL knew would return, and then when things do get bad, if need CUT expenditures, Raising funds is NOT always the answer.
Sometimes doing without is

So, let me get this straight. We gave these clowns millions of dollars in E-Splost funds and they spent it recklessly. Computers replaced after 2 years and the "old" computers being stored in closets. Perfectly fine parking lots repaved. Brand new school built in the middle of a corn field and sitting empty. Furloughing teachers and then proposing new astroturf for the football fields. Why would I agree to voluntary taxation when I don't trust the people spending it? Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

While I understand your rationale, I would like to know how the new county commissioners intend to approach this horrendous shortfall in our Edu. system--you got any idea?

They can choose to speak in favor, against or they may elect to maintain silence. I would ask them, they'll be glad to speak to you.

It's my understanding that we're maxed out on the millage rate. How can it go higher?

Look at the E Splost and see the milage tax credits you have received.
Voting YES provides ESplost funds that are controlled that can not be abused by FCBOE.
If you are not happy with board, change the board not the ESplost!
If you want less taxes compare your Tax Credit to a lower retail tax and see where you save money.

At Monday's FCBOE meeting they voted to use ESplost funds for new security systems in our elementary schools!

The only reasons to vote NO is if you hate public education, hate Fayette Schools or you spend more than $14,300 a year in Fayette at retail so saving on the retail tax makes more sense.

There may be more reasons I can't think of!

Why do we need to spend money on security at our elementary schools? I can't get in my local school without signing in. Are people trying to steal our chalk or was this a federal mandate?

Read the news. School shootings, Amber alerts....clearly you're kidding or trying to make a point.
Regarding teachers...ESplost can not pay for teachers but it does pay for a long list of other things.
Take away the ESplost and the school system will not be forced to pay for those things pulling away funds that pay teachers which is the largest expense item in the budget.

This year you will see class sizes increase. If ESplost is not renewed starting for the following year and FCBOE has to now budget and pay for what the ESplost covered for the previous 5 years then you will see classes get even bigger since more teachers will have go. Is that what you want?

How's 35 to 40 kids per class. I suspect $20 million is about 145-200 teachers.

Just think it through carefully before pulling the lever.


If the ESplost lowers your real estate taxes and money was controlled how the board of education could spend it....would you vote to renew it?

Like many others in FC, I am very concerned about the school board.

I don't know if I am right or wrong, but from what I've read, I can ascertain that there were members of the school board that may have overstepped thier job description. In my opinion, Dr. Bearden was caught between a rock and hard place. His doctorate and 20+ years in education was being negated by a couple of people who think they knew more and were playing a political game instead of what they need to do for our children. Only Chairman Pressburg had the guts not to go along with the others and sweep this under the rug.

What we need to do is to teach our children how to live within our means. Why do we need new buses with cameras? If a child is unruly, give the bus driver the ability to ban the kid from the bus. Make the parents get little Johnny to school on time.

Take a good look at administration and start cutting from the top down. Similar to the police dept. Give the schools back to the principal and teachers and let them do their jobs. Keep the parapros in the younger classes where they are needed. I have yet to find a teacher that does not care about our kids. Give them the support, not new books or the new markerboards every year.

Mr. Councilman, I see you at Oak Grove. I know that you care about education, but do we need new things or can we teach our kids that they can do without? We can do more by supporting the teachers who provide our kids with a positive learning atmosphere, not the most up to date toy.

I am skeptical about this new group that is lobbying for the e-splost tax. A group did this in DeKalb County and we found that the people supporting it the loudest were the ones selling unneeded books to the school because a local teacher was the author.

I would like to hear from every school board member that will be on board next year. Tell me how you will spend my additional tax dollars. Then and only then will I consider a Yes vote.

You are correct- there are things they can do without, but not enough to make up for the lost ESPLOST revenue. They need to cut, no doubt. There just are not enough cuts left to equal the amount of lost revenue. This is directly connected to your property value. Even if the schools are only perceived as losing some of their luster, it will send home buyers elsewhere. This means it takes longer to sell your home. So then you drop the price. That starts the dominoes falling. Soon your neighbor sells his house and can't get what he wants for it. He lowers the price. Bang, another domino. The past school board majority did not do their job. There is no disputing that. They dug us in a hole, but we have to hold the line, or the schools that are now adding to our home values will drag us all down.

Property values do not go down unless the schools lose accreditation. Let's rightsize our schools, live within our means, and give our teachers the support they deserve. Then watch as our kids thrive and property values increase as we set the example of responsible governing. If my taxes need to go up $250, I can live with that knowing we are on the right path.

mudcat's picture

With no jobs and no new industry coming to Peachtree City, there will not be any buyers (or successful sellers, for that matter). Mighty white of you to give us that extra $250 to keep the school system afloat, but you are way low on what it will take. I'm guessing in a few years your tax bill will increase about $3,000. How, you ask?

Since nobody has the gumption to close schools as our student population shrinks, we will always be supporting 5 or 6 unneeded or under-utilized schools. That's expensive. Combine that with the aging in place seniors who discover they can avoid paying the school portion of their property taxes at age 65. Used to be those people moved away and were replaced by younger families who paid full taxes, but no more. Thanks to Obama/Frank/Dodd/Clinton/Carter - they can't sell their devalued house.

Students shrink.
Schools don't.
Staff does somewhat, but not enough.
State subsidy shrinks
Fewer taxpayers to pay the cost of schools.
Dissatisfied parents homeschool or private school
Then students shrink more.

See the pattern?

3 years. If your tax bill is $2,000 now, it will be $5,000 then. Best advice is to turn 65.

My home value went down $20K. That's the economics of this recession, not the school board issue.

I agree, our city and county leaders have to lure prospective business ventures into the city. This requires a suave marketing person. We don't have that at this time. The closest we have is a suave shampoo using mayor.

We need to right size the schools and get us back to living within our means. Once we set the good example of governing, then more people will want to move into our fine city.

When I referred to the additional tax, I was throwing out the County Tax Credit I received this year.

mudcat's picture

How this place has changed in just 20 years. A first to worst conversion is taking place and it makes me angry and sad.

But its going to take a little time, and a little help from the voters. It started this past primary. Now its time for the newbie politicos to produce. If we don't, fire us. I have confidence that we will soon be on the right track.

Didnt realize

SPQR's picture

How a body of elected officials can make a contract with taxpayers money and then when the deal goes south use more taxpayers money to get out of it then agree to not tell the taxpayers what their money was used for. If they get way with this what's next?

You may want to throw good money after bad but I do not. If this new BOE leadership is as good as you think, let them demonstrate that improved stewardship before we continue to waste taxpayer monies. I will accept the property value losses rather than the taxes.



How much property loss are you willing to tolerate? If you approve this, and trust good people like Barry Marchman, then it is transparent to you. Tax rate stays the same. I HATE taxes, but the previous regime boxed us in. I'd rather make out of county shoppers share the burden, than make our children pay.

Don't forget- once those property values start to sink, its game over. You are not just effecting the schools. We will have to cut police and fire because the city and county rates go down as well. It's all connected.

We are at a breaking point. Many of your public servants are freshly elected- I've been around the longest out of this new batch- 9 months. I'm the only one with a track record, so far. I voted against the PTC millage rate increase and proposed two different balanced budgets. I trust Dr. Marchman and the new County Board Members. I believe they will do right by their constituents. Please give them a chance- starting with this ESPLOST.

I will begin to trust when, and only when, I see a reason to trust.

In answer to your question about how much I am willing to lose on my property, the simple answer is "all of it." I wrote my PTC property off in my mind two years ago when the extent of the fiduciary failures were apparent. Fayette and PTC has and is going down the same path many of the cites of America went down a number of years ago. Service and leadership failures beget additional taxes to cover these failures followed by loss of property values and investment which drive increased taxes and around the tree we go again, and again, and again.

You are delusional if you think PTC and Fayette are not on this treadmill. No amount of additional expenditures will stop the cycle.


On Monday - a "non-work day"- I'll be home rather than in my classroom so that the county can save my salary (which by the way is a couple of hundred bucks a month less than it was when school ended in May and there are another couple of cuts yet to come)and yet our board thinks they have a valid reason for paying Dr. Bearden for an entire "non-work year" plus insurance, plus accumulated leave, plus attorney's fees(?) and they think it is okay to keep the taxpayers who provided all that cash completely in the dark?
They've asked me to reuse copy paper and take the lamps out of my classroom and stuck signs all over my building reminding us to turn off lights in order to save precious tax dollars but they have that much money to spend on someone who they want to leave? The citizens of Fayette County and the employees of the FCBOE deserve some answers. I hope someone keeps digging until they are found.

I agree with most of what Husband and Father said except the comment on why we need to spend money for cameras on buses. In a perfect world, the parents would discipline their kids if they were caught doing something. As a parent volunteer at the schools, I can tell you that most kids will deny deny deny that they did what they were accused of. Once that video is pulled out, they can't deny it. Then parents are called and they say "not my kid". Then the parents are shown the video and many of them make excuses why their kid did what they did. THAT is reality now. I do not trust the Board of Education with my money either, but I am voting for ESPLOST because they are limited to what they can spend it on. The money will help the kids and the teachers. We are already paying the 1% ESPLOST tax now so you will not notice a difference. If we do not approve ESPLOST, your taxes will go up to make up for this, and who knows what our Board will spend it on...perhaps more attorney fees?


I am just old school I guess. Most parents would side with thier kids because it would be inconvenient for them to discipline thier kids. I told my children that if I ever got a note home that they misbehaved in class, that I would take off work and go to school with them the next day in my pajamas and with my bedhead and sit in every class with them. They know I would do it too.

As the furlough day was mentioned, makes one wonder if the super's contractual salaried was "adjusted" for furlough days this year and what about next year when (we all know more days are in the works)he is no longer "working" but drawing his contractual salary?? Also, with the "save electricity" mindset (don't get me wrong, I am all about conservation, just ask my family) but where else have we conserved?? Do administrators still have cell phones paid for by the county?? What about that channel 24 piece of garbage... the music alone makes one sick...what about bringing back the 49%ers... you save on employer cost benefits... there is NO transparency with this board or the county office. SACS, where are you??

As the furlough day was mentioned, makes one wonder if the super's contractual salaried was "adjusted" for furlough days this year and what about next year when (we all know more days are in the works)he is no longer "working" but drawing his contractual salary?? Also, with the "save electricity" mindset (don't get me wrong, I am all about conservation, just ask my family) but where else have we conserved?? Do administrators still have cell phones paid for by the county?? What about that channel 24 piece of garbage... the music alone makes one sick...what about bringing back the 49%ers... you save on employer cost benefits... there is NO transparency with this board or the county office. SACS, where are you??

just what happened to sour the relationship that the Board and Beardon had last Spring? Maybe Beardon was just doing his job, made recommendations that the politicos in the county office didn't like because it affects their friends and family, and found that he could not work in a place where he was stymied at every turn.

It is going to be a great day when we have a Board that is free from trying to appease any little clique of friends when they determine what is best for this county. Then we will have some transparency in the way decisions are made and we can all confidently trust the running of this county to able administration. Let the newly established board choose our next superintendant and while they are doing it, they can let all the stakeholders know why the old one had to go.

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