Sherman steps down

Sherman steps down

By Erich Wagner (Photo/Erich Wagner)

The Alexandria School Board voted overwhelmingly to accept the resignation of Superintendent Morton Sherman on August 29, just days before the start of the academic year.

Board members voted 8-1 to release Sherman — who did not attend the special meeting — from his contract and unanimously appointed Margaret Walsh as acting superintendent. Walsh is a 20-year veteran of Alexandria City Public Schools, most recently serving as chief policy and student services director.

School board chairwoman Karen Graf said Sherman had approached the board earlier this summer with the intention of retiring. As part of the agreement, Sherman will receive 39 percent of his remaining contract — about $220,000 — along with nearly $60,000 in paid leave time.

Two years ago, the school board renewed Sherman’s contract through 2015.

Graf expressed gratitude for Sherman’s service to the school system during the past five years. The board will immediately begin searching for his successor, she said, a process that will include community meetings and launching a website.

Board member Marc Williams cast the lone dissenting vote. He said the contract buyout includes money better spent on students and teachers.

“Each time I have run for election, I have pledged that I would be a good steward of our taxpayers’ dollars,” Williams said. “I have taken this fiduciary duty very seriously, and this payment is an unjustified expenditure of public funds.”

And given that the previous superintendent, Rebecca Perry, also was bought out of her contract in 2008, he worried this practice could create a bad perception of ACPS.

“What a perverse recruitment model: In Alexandria, we pay our superintendents to come and we pay them to go,” Williams said.

Graf, however, said contract buyouts upon a person’s retirement are not unusual, particularly in the corporate world.

The timing of Sherman’s unexpected retirement leaves the district in a lurch as most students head back to school after summer break. But Graf is confident that ACPS will not suffer during this transition period.

“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.”

Graf said the board hopes to find a permanent replacement within six months. But Williams worries about the quality of applicants given the quick turnaround.

Vickie Cattaneo, a parent of two T.C. Williams High School graduates as well as a junior at the institution, said the announcement was disappointing.

“Dr. Sherman made a big difference with special education and really focusing on the needs of all students. So this is very disappointing,” said Cattaneo.