Severance payments common in NC superintendent contracts

Posted December 20, 2013 4:20 p.m. EST
Updated December 21, 2013 7:19 a.m. EST

— The nearly $300,000 in severance the Durham County Board of Education will pay outgoing Superintendent Eric Becoats was included in his contract, and other school leaders across North Carolina have similar stipulations.

Becoats, who has led Durham Public Schools for almost four years, announced Thursday night that he would resign on Dec. 31.

"Dr. Becoats and the board recognize that fundamental differences have arisen between the superintendent and the board over the best way to govern the Durham Public Schools," a resignation agreement hammered out behind closed doors states.

He was under contract until June 30, 2016, and the contract called for him to receive up to 18 months of salary if the school board fired him. The board agreed to pay him about that much in severance, with a lump sum of $298,072.54.

Superintendent contracts for the state's nine other largest school districts show four of them, including the Wake County Public School System, would be paid 12 months of severance, Johnston County Schools would pay out for 24 months and the the other four, including Cumberland County Schools, would be paid through the end of their contracts.

Becoats has been under scrutiny in recent months for financial management missteps.

The school board reprimanded him in August for his use of a district school bus and driver to take his family and friends to private events.

In November, the board ended a policy of issuing credit cards for district employee business expenses after a review of Becoats' bills showed thousands of dollars in personal charges over a period of about a year.

Earlier this week, Board Chairwoman Heidi Carter faulted Becoats for a $15 million error in the district budget that prompted the school board to plead for money from Durham County that it didn't need.

"My mission has not changed, nor has my vision," Becoats said after announcing his resignation. "Durham Public Schools, I say thank you for the opportunity to serve. One vision, one Durham."

Carter said parting with Becoats was a hard decision, adding that she and other board members will "come back next year with the resolve to do our very best work going forward."

Durham County Board of Commissioners Chairman Michael Page said he has mixed feelings about Becoats' resignation.

"I think he did some very good things for the school system, and I wish the two sides could have worked it out," Page said. "In the end, I have to live with the Board's decision."