Saturday, July 13, 2024

Update: School Board accepts separation agreement with Superintendent Markley, pays $226,000 severance [Free Read]

[From left] Board of Education members Nelson Beaulieu, Stefanie Adams, Chairwoman Lisa Estep, Bill Rivenbark, Jeanette Nichols, and Judy Justice. (Port City Daily photo / Benjamin Schachtman)

Editor’s note: this is a developing story and Port City Daily will continue to provide updates as more information is released.

WILMINGTON — The New Hanover County School Board of Education has voted to accept a separation agreement with Dr. Tim Markley that will see him paid $226,000 in severance.

Related: A long hard look at New Hanover County Schools’ arrests, allegations, and administration [Free read]

The move came after nearly six hours of closed session on Friday as public outrage mounted following the arrest of another NHCS teacher accused of improper relationships with students. Following that session, the board made a statement, confirming a mutual separation agreement between the board and Markley. (You can read the entire release below.)

Markley’s removal from New Hanover County Schools (NHCS) is effective immediately. In exchange, the board will pay Markley $195,000 as a severance payment, as well as $32,966.66 in earned benefit in accrued leave — the board stated this was a requirement of state law in order to end Markley’s contract.

The agreement comes after two weeks of intense public pressure to hold someone accountable for system failures in the school district, including multiple predators who abused children for years while the administration had at least some knowledge of their wrongdoing. Markley quickly became the focal point for that pressure as shock and outrage grew into public calls for his termination.

The board stated that Deputy Superintendent Dr. LaChawn Smith will continue to serve in her current role as next steps are considered.

The Board of Education noted it was requesting funding for additional education for employees, security measures, and a full investigation of potential issues in the school system — the board requested two full-time investigators to address concerns over Title IX violations, harassment, and bullying. The board has also requested funding for additional cameras and surveillance efforts. The board will also review all personnel files “without exception.”

The board also noted that it was moving as fast as allowed by state statute to terminate Peter Frank, the Roland Grise band teacher who was arrested on felony child sex charges last week.

Below: Video of Board Chairwoman Lisa Estep reading a prepared statement (note, because no amplification was used during the statement, headphones are recommended).

The board also issued an apology to the community.

Below: The board’s complete statement (bulletedd points appear in the original), as well as a statement from Markley.

  • Today, the New Hanover County Board of Education has approved a resignation and separation agreement for Dr. Tim Markley.  Effective immediately, Dr. Markley will no longer serve as our superintendent. The Board will pay $195,000 as a severance plus $32,966.66 in earned benefits and accrued leave as required by the state in order to end his contract.
  • The full copy of the separation agreement will be sent out publicly once it is signed.  The Board believes that separating from Dr. Markley is the best solution to move this system forward. 
  • Dr. LaChawn Smith will continue to serve as the system’s Deputy Superintendent.  The Board will be meeting next week to determine our steps forward in naming an Interim Superintendent.
  • We would now like to address some broader issues facing the system:
  • The Board appreciates the community’s patience as we worked through serious matters in closed sessions and meetings over many days. We know you all want answers, and we are working hard to get those answers and to proactively take steps to ensure our children are safe.
  • The Board takes its role very seriously. As issues come to light it is our responsibility to continuously work to address them.
  • There is no excuse for what these perpetrators have allegedly done to our children, and there is no excuse for anyone in a position of authority to abuse that power.
  • While we have been active throughout this process we acknowledge the public frustration over the length of time to get to this point. We are and continue to be limited by state laws and confidentiality issues.
  • We can assure you that our time has been spent day and night on this, and that will continue.
  • We also want our community to know that Peter Frank has been suspended without pay as of January 29th. 
  • State law requires a specific process for dismissing a teacher with career status and that process can take a few weeks. The Board cannot move any faster than that statutory process allows.  We will continue to update the community as permissible by law.
  • We have met with the Sheriff’s Office and county officials to begin utilizing additional resources to aid in our efforts to recover and safeguard our students and our Board thanks them for their ongoing support and communication.
  • We have analyzed where help is urgently needed and have requested county funding for two full time investigators for concerns related to Title IX, harassment and bullying to allow recording as well as proper filing all complaints for retrieval and tracking.
  • We have also requested immediate funding for adding additional cameras for school hallways, corridors, and stairwells and for security surveillance in place to monitor these cameras.
  • We will continue to engage a mobile crisis team who will work alongside our school system’s personnel to help our students, teachers and families.
  • Our Board believes it is important to do a thorough review of all personnel files and is exploring ways to conduct that review in a way consistent with state laws, while protecting employee confidentiality, and ensuring public confidence in the process. All personnel files will be reviewed, without exception.
  • The community is concerned, and rightfully so. Our system will work to provide our families the help and support they need. And we will share any and all information publicly as we are able.
  • We will continue to train staff members with the “Darkness to Light” curriculum to help prevent, recognize and react responsibly to childhood sexual abuse. We have 400 staff trained already, and all of our staff who interact with children will be trained by the start of our next school year. 
  • We have also already begun implementing evidence-based programs like “Shifting Boundaries” for grades six through nine to help students understand boundaries and behaviors that are not acceptable. 
  •  We plan to add the training “Bringing in the Bystander” for grades 10 through 12 to bring awareness to the realities of relationship abuse and sexual assault, and that bystanders can help create a healthier community and effectively support peers. 
  • We are working closely with the Carousel Center to identify a safe space, safe touching curriculum for Kindergarten through fifth grade students. 
  • In a partnership with Trillium and the county all staff are receiving mental health first aid training to help equip them to respond to a person in crisis and connect them with professional, peer, social, and self-help care. Thank you also to Judge Corpening for his advocacy for this important work.
  • We will be even more proactive with the “See Something, Say Something” campaign. And continue to encourage anyone who has a tip for the Sheriff’s Office to call 798-4399.
  • We will continue to promote Ethix360 our online reporting platform, and our Say Something app for parents, students and teachers to use and report any and all concerns. These reporting mechanisms have been rolled out over the past few months and provide tracking and accountability.  These systems ensure all complaints and concerns are addressed and handled quickly. 
  • We are taking proactive steps to provide our children with the protection they deserve and the support they need. As we have and develop additional concrete steps, we will continue to share those with you.
  • These are our children. 
  • They deserve to go to school and feel safe, and we will do everything in our power to ensure that happens.
  • We say we are sorry to our students, our families, and our community.
  • Our school system is blessed with an exceptional and talented group of educators, staff and administrative personnel.
  • We would like to thank them for all of their work and dedication on behalf of our students and families during these difficult days. 
  • To the community, you will see our actions. Our actions will prove our students, teachers and families are our priority.

Markley offered the following statement Friday afternoon (note: the following statement is unedited except for formatting).

Dr. Tim Markley. Photo courtesy New Hanover County Schools.

“It has been my privilege to serve New Hanover County Schools for the last decade. I am proud to say that numerous accomplishments have been made. During this time, the district’s graduation rate has increased to the highest level ever. Our schools are among the best in the state, and our students continue to thrive academically, leading the region and strongly competitive throughout the State.  

In 2014, the public-school community passed one of the largest bonds in the district’s history by an overwhelming margin. Specialty programs have been created to provide choices for parents. Through the establishment of the International School at Gregory, NHCS now offers Spanish and Mandarin Chinese Immersion for Grades K-8. SEA-TECH – the region’s only vocational-focused school in partnership with Cape Fear Community College – is in its third year. NHCS worked with local law enforcement and judicial leaders to create the first School Justice Partnerships in the State, which is now helping other districts to establish their own.

It has been an honor to serve New Hanover County Schools. I have been most fortunate to work with some of the finest educators in the state. I wish the Board and everyone the very best.

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