The Metro Nashville school board voted to terminate Director Shawn Joseph’s contract Tuesday night in a 5-to-3 vote. As part of that decision, the district will buy out the remainder his contract for $261,250.
The board also voted to make MNPS Community Superintendent Dr. Adrienne Battle the interim director of schools. She will be the first African American woman to hold the position.
“Our focus right now is to ensure we have a smooth transition,” said Battle. “We just want to put our focus and energy on all our wonderful students.”
Under this deal, Joseph will no longer have any duties as superintendent on April 12. Joseph may also be paid for his accrued vacation time, and he’ll get reimbursed for legal fees around his teaching license, which the state Board of Education has recommended suspending.
Joseph will continue to maintain his insurance until July 31.
The agreement followed a heated discussion among board members over the quality of Joseph’s leadership in the district.
Member Amy Frogge even entertained a motion to hire independent legal counsel to negotiate the terms of his contract. She said she’s worried it’s a conflict of interest for only the board chair, Sharon Gentry, to negotiate the contract.
Frogge reminded the audience at the board meeting that Joseph had been accussed of mishandling sexual harrasment claims and illegally brokering no-bid contracts with vendors and hiring friends throughout his tenure. Joseph
has denied wrongdoing in these cases.
“Under these circumstances, I think it would be wrong to pay the director more money,” said Frogge, who argued the board should have the right to terminate Joseph’s contract without cause.
But that motion was voted down by the majority of the board.
Board chair Sharon Gentry clarified that in the contract negotiations, MNPS’s lawyer, Corey Harkey, recused herself. Her supervisor Jon Cooper, Metro’s law director, took it over. That’s why, Gentry says, she thinks the contract terms are fair.
“We tried to get to a point where there was something mutually palatable and fair to all parties involved,” said Gentry. “I can see where it possible that there can be some concern […] but my sole purpose is to do what’s best for the district, the students and for the board.”
The board must also agree to mutual non-disparagement provision, in which each party “agrees never to file any lawsuit or claim against any of the other parties with any court or administrative agencies,” said Gentry.
At the end of the vote, outgoing board member Will Pinkston defended Joseph, saying his contract termination isn’t a “firing, so to speak.”
“Dr. Joseph is ready to go and leave what amounts to hostile working conditions. This is a voluntary separation conversation,” said Pinkston.
Last month, Dr. Joseph announced he would voluntarily not seek contract renewal.