Farmington Public Schools Supt. Dr. Bob Herrera, Board of Trustees President Pam Green, and Vice President Terry Johnson all resigned Monday, in part due to statements made by a trustee who was censured during the same meeting.
Trustees emerged from a closed meeting for what was to be a discussion of the district’s strategic plan and amended their agenda to include Herrera’s resignation.
In a tearful statement, Green explained what she called “extraordinary developments” that occurred since the last board meeting. She said Herrera had contacted her with a complaint alleging board secretary Angie Smith had engaged in behavior that constituted harassment. After she asked the district’s legal counsel to investigate, Green said, Herrera decided to resign.
In a statement released following the meeting, Herrera said, “While this is not how or the time that I wanted to leave the District, I felt it was necessary to do what was in the best interest of our entire school community. Farmington Public Schools will continue to serve the students and families well in our community; the District has a strong leadership team that will continue to move the District forward.”
District pays, legal claims released
The exit package has Herrera continuing as superintendent until January 22, 2021, and then working as a consultant for the district until June 30, 2021. He will be paid $105,000 to close out his three-year contract, which would have expired in 2022.
Under the agreement, Herrera releases the district from all legal claims, including but not limited to those arising from public statements Smith made accusing him of “being against” African American teachers and students, Green said.
Trustees approved the agreement. Though Smith initially called in to the remote meeting, she said she had a family emergency and did not vote.
Censure disavows trustee statements
Trustee Richard Mukamal then introduced the censure resolution, which disavowed Smith’s statements about Herrera, stripped Smith of her position as secretary, and removed her from acting as a mentor for any board member.
Trustee Terri Weems voted against the resolution, though she agreed with disavowing Smith’s statements. She pointed out that other board members had made similarly disruptive statements and not been censured.
“I find that we’re not entirely being consistent here,” she said.
“This action and others… seem to be coming to us with a request to make action the same day, and that is generally not our practice,” she added. “We usually have a moment to digest and make suggestions or comments.”
Mukamal pointed out that censure was the only remedy available when a trustee violates board ethics. “Honestly, I think this is overdue,” he said. “I witnessed some of the behaviors.”
Trustees: ‘I’m tired’ and ‘I have failed’
After the motion passed, Johnson announced he would step down effective 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, November 21, despite the fact that his term expires in just 45 days. He said the board has not held people accountable for divisive behaviors.
“This board has just completely changed,” he said, adding that he has filed a harassment suit against a fellow board member. “It’s really unfortunate that we have gotten to a position where we can’t disagree without being disagreeable… I’m tired of my reputation being torn apart.”
Green spoke next, tearfully explaining that contention on the board has taken such a toll on her physical health that she would also resign, effective Friday, November 20. As she deals with health issues, Johnson will handle board correspondence through the week.
After a 35-year career in education, Green said, she ran to make a difference in the district, but the behavior of two board members led to her spending the majority of her time “managing unprofessional adult behaviors.”
“Unfortunately, during the past two years, in spite of my very best efforts, I have been unable to accomplish everything I have hoped for,” she said. “I have failed.”
Where things stand
In January, three new trustees elected earlier this month will take office: Cheryl Blau and Mable Fox, who will serve six-year terms, and Claudia Heinrich, who will serve a two-year term. Mukamal leaves the board at the end of December.
Trustees will likely appoint replacements for Green, whose term doesn’t expire until 2024, and Johnson, who leaves with 40 days remaining in his term. Under state law, school boards have 30 days to fill an open board seat before the intermediate school district takes over the process.
That happened in November of 2018, when trustees failed to agree on a replacement for former board president Jim Stark. Oakland Schools trustees appointed Green, who had won the November election, to serve through December 31. Local trustees appointed Mukamal after she resigned to start her six-year term.
There is one more 2020 school board meeting scheduled on December 15, six days before the deadline.
Watch the meeting (discussion starts around 1:44:00)
Correction: The original version of this post omitted information about appointing someone to replace Terry Johnson.