Pontiac superintendent decides to retire
Report citing host of district failings raised pressure on chief
Of The Oakland Press
In a decision that brought neither fanfare nor outrage, the Pontiac Board of Education unanimously accepted a retirement notice from embattled superintendent Mildred Mason on Thursday.
Board members voted on the matter without discussion during an open meeting that began two hours later than scheduled. Attorneys representing both the board and Mason had accompanied them in a closed-session discussion that accounted for the delay.
"We're very excited about the opportunity to move the district forward," Board President Letyna Roberts said after the meeting.
Mason left the district administration building before the conclusion of the board meeting and was not available for comment concerning her decision to part ways with the district.
The superintendent had one year remaining on a three-year contract.
Roberts said attorneys are working on details of a settlement relative to how Mason will be compensated for that time. During the 2006-07 school year, she received a salary of just over $155,000.
Private discussions on Mason's future with the district have been taking place for months, and some board members have publicly called for her resignation, retirement or termination on several occasions.
During her nearly four-year tenure as superintendent, Mason oversaw curriculum alignment efforts that led to most district school buildings meeting state and federal requirements for improving student achievement levels.
At the same time, she has come under fire for alleged financial mismanagement, divisive operational management practices and still significantly lagging academic achievement.
Fran Fowlkes, co-founder of the Truth for Children education advocacy organization, said Thursday night's decision was critical to overcoming a host of problems that have long been criticized by people outside the district.
She argued that the board and others inside the district must have courage to address these problems earnestly.
"You came close, if this had not happened, to getting a double black eye."
Fowlkes also challenged district teachers and administrators to approach the coming school year with optimism and renewed commitment.
"When you go back to your job, I want to see new motivation," she said. "You will have more support that you've ever seen."
Roberts said the board has already agreed to use consultants with the Chartwell Educational Group to organize a nationwide search for Mason's replacement. The process is expected to take six to eight months.
Meanwhile, Assistant Superintendent for Business Services Calvin Cupidore has been appointed to serve as interim superintendent. He said he is looking forward to assisting the board in district management reform efforts during the search process.
Noting that he is not interested in pursuing the superintendent's position on a permanent basis, he said, "When that period is over, I'll look forward to coming back to my old position."
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