No-trash-talk agreement between Richland2 and Brochu

cclick@thestate.comJuly 19, 2013 

Katie Brochu


— A $130,000 severance agreement between former Richland 2 superintendent Katie Brochu ensures that neither she nor the board will engage in negative assessments of each other.

That was part of a four-page agreement reached June 13 when Brochu made public her surprise decision to step down from the position she had held for three years. The $130,000 package includes a $20,000 annuity and payment for about 20 vacation days.

While the district earlier said Brochu would be paid through July 1 without additional compensation, school board chairman Bill Flemming said Friday the board met privately with Brochu and her attorney to reach the settlement. Because it is a personnel matter, he said the settlement was confidential and the board was not obligated to make the figure public. But the district released the agreement Thursday.

“Everything went so quick it was pretty much a flash,” he said. “Because of the time element things could have been done a little better.”

Brochu had sparked controversy during her tenure for instituting broad changes in the district and failing to elicit district and community support for her actions. She drew criticism for frequent reorganization of personnel and distancing herself from some of the district’s signature programs, including its magnet and choice programs.

Over the course of the last year, it was clear Brochu was losing support from some school board members, although Flemming remained a strong advocate.

Last October, board members gave Brochu a guarded endorsement during a performance review, but required her to improve her community relationships, moderate her top-down management style and deal with low-performing schools.

Vice chairman Susan Brill said she and others on the board “hadn’t been down this road before,” so the situation was fluid as they negotiated her departure.

“I really can’t go into detail about the way it all worked out because that would be a breach of our understanding,” she said Friday. “We were not supposed to say anything negative about her and she was not to say anything negative about us.”

On the same day Brochu announced her resignation to pursue other opportunities, the board appointed Debra “Debbie” Hamm as interim superintendent, a veteran administrator who was quickly endorsed by teachers and administrators.

“I think we acted in the best interest of the community,” Brill said. “I feel good that we were in a good place and that we are moving forward.”

Still, she said, she had already had one caller Friday morning criticizing the settlement saying, “would you spend your money like this?”

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