WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Palm Beach County School Superintendent Art Johnson will be out of a job after school board members voted six to one this week to release him from his contract. The question remains now: will Johnson accept the board’s $400-thousand settlement or be fired?
The board and Dr. Johnson have until 5 p.m. Monday to reach a deal. Representatives for the school board and Johnson have been going back and forth today over the terms for the settlement offer. In the meantime, Palm Beach County School workers are trying to stay focused on what they say is most important.
The cafeteria at the Fulton-Holland Educational Services Center on Friday was filled with clapping and cheering as parents, educators and administrators applauded a Black History Month celebration by students from the Alexander W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts and private school Bar & Ferg's Academy.
"We have to always remember: we are about kids,” explained Sandra Weatherspoon, the district’s manager for K-12 Social Studies, Fine Arts and P.E. “We are here to serve our kids first and foremost."
While music and applause broke out downstairs, upstairs on the third floor of the school district's headquarters, Superintendent Art Johnson's office was much quieter. Johnson, who did not respond to our request for an interview, was in his office earlier, but was out of the office when we called. Friday, representatives for Johnson and the school district were trying to iron out the final wording for a separation agreement. Still, whether Johnson will be in his office on Monday was still in question.
"The last thing I heard,” said Palm Beach County School District Spokesman Nat Harrington, “they were expecting it on Monday, but again, these things are all in discussion. It's not for me to say."
Meanwhile, teachers and administrators say they'll be ready for whatever happens Monday by staying focused on their own responsibilities.
"We've got tests coming. We've got diagnostics and FCAT,” said Weatherspoon. “There's so much going on and the schools are planning their spring activities and we can't stop. We're not people who give up. We go on in spite of difficulty."
This has been a difficult time for the entire school district. Art Johnson has been the superintendent for ten years and many staff members have worked with him for a long time. Still, they say they’re committed to working with the interim superintendent, Bill Malone . He’s expected to start Monday or Tuesday.