By Erich Wagner (File Photo)
Updated: 10:40 p.m.
Members of the city’s school board voted to accept the resignation of Alexandria City Public Schools superintendent Morton Sherman, just days before the first day of school on September 3.
The board voted 8-1 to release Sherman, who was not in attendance at the special Thursday meeting, from his contract and voted unanimously to appoint Margaret Walsh as acting superintendent.
School Board Chairwoman Karen Graf said Sherman had approached the board earlier this summer with the intention of retiring. As part of the agreement reached between the board and the former superintendent, the board will pay Sherman 39 percent of his remaining contract — about $220,000 — along with nearly $60,000 in paid leave time.
Graf said in an interview that she was grateful for Sherman’s service to the school system over the last five years. She said she and other board members will immediately begin a search for a replacement, including setting up community meetings, a website and other opportunities for residents to weigh in.
Board member Marc Williams was the lone dissenting vote. He said the contract buyout is money that would be better spent on students and teachers.
And given that the previous superintendent, Rebecca Perry, was also bought out of her contract, this practice could create a bad perception to observers.
“What a perverse recruitment model: in Alexandria, we pay our superintendents to come and we pay them to go,” Williams said.
Graf said contract buy-outs upon a person’s retirement are not unusual, particularly in the corporate world. She said was confident the school system would not suffer from a transition in leadership so close to the beginning of classes.
“I’m not concerned at all,” she said. “I know the principals and the teachers in our school houses, and they can command their areas.”
Vickie Cattaneo, a parent of two T.C. Williams High School graduates and a current junior at the school, said the announcement was disappointing.
“Dr. Sherman made a big difference with special education, and really focusing on the needs of all students,” Cattaneo said. “So this is very disappointing.”
Walsh is a 20-year veteran of ACPS, most recently serving as chief policy and student services director.