Fayetteville Inks Contract With New Superintendent Colbert

FAYETTEVILLE (KFSM) -- The Fayetteville School Board approved a new three-year contract with Dr. John L Colbert during a special meeting Monday (Aug. 13).

Colbert took the reins as superintendent on June 21 after the board fired Dr. Matthew Wendt for violating district policy. He had been serving as acting superintendent since April 6.

The new deal between Colbert and Fayetteville Public Schools will run through June 30, 2021 with a base salary of $215,000. The contract also includes a one-time signing bonus of $19,000 for Colbert's service as acting superintendent from April 6 to June 21.

The board will also have the ability to approve annual salary increases.

Aside from salary differences and a few other minor changes like contract dates, the board added four new items to Article 12 of what constitutes cause for termination:

vi. The Superintendent fails or refuses to comply with Board Policies, including, but not limited to those relating to substance abuse, sexual or other unlawful harassment or discrimination;

vii. Neglect of duties;

viii. The arrest of the Superintendent or the filing of criminal charges against the Superintendent during the term of this Contract; or

ix. Conduct the Board determines is detrimental to or reflects unfavorably on the District or its reputation, or which constitutes cause for termination in the Board's reasonable discretion, it being impossible to specifically enumerate all events, conduct, and occurrences which would in injurious to the District and which would constitute Cause.

The additions to Colbert's contract follow the firing of his predecessor, whose contract did not contain similar language. School board attorneys used district policy to remove Wendt from his job. He was fired for breach of contract for derogatory comments against a fellow employee violating district policy, according Susan Kendall, attorney for the School Board.

Also newly added to a district's superintendent contract are Articles 13 and 14, with the former declaring that should the board vote to initiate a process of termination, a hearing shall be provided. If the board approves a termination, salary and benefits will end immediately.

According to Article 14 of Colbert's contract, a superintendent who has been suspended by the board must still make themselves available for "consultation, advice and return to duties." At the end of 90 consecutive days of paid suspension, the superintendent will return to duty, unless the contract has expired or the superintendent is terminated.