by Max Brantley
Dawn Jackson, who runs the Save the PCSSD blog about Pulaski County School District affairs, is stirring the waters again this morning with statements attributed to Superintendent Charles Hopson, supposedly to other district employees. In Jackson's account, Hopson told employees he had no intention of resigning, despite some unflattering findings in a recent state audit; that he has no intention of repaying $24,000 he received that the audit questioned, including $9,000 toward housing here, and that he would ask the state Education Department to remove the School Board, where some significant criticism of him has arisen.
UPDATE: Superintendent Hopson told me he had what was called an "emergency" cabinet meeting yesterday, but it was an emergency only in that it was held earlier than the regularly scheduled time because of a death in his family. He said some staff members were concerned about his future following the audit session and some tumultuous School board meetings. "I told them, 'You guys know we're going to move forward.'" He said he had no plans to resign.
As to the audit findings, he said the person who'd helped negotiate his contract has prepared an analysis that demonstrated all the charges questioned by auditors were proper and that he had no intention of reimbursing them. He said most contracts for school superintendents include a one-time sum for moving expenses. He had wanted a lump sum; the board had required receipts for a portion of it. But he said all the expenses were proper, would be declared as income and that a detailed analysis had been provided to the board.
As to the rumor about a desire to dissolve the School Board: "I don't know where in the world that came from," he said. He met this afternoon with Education Commissioner Tom Kimbrell,. Beforehand, he said the meeting was only for information gathering to prepare for a meeting in March when the state Education Department will assess the district's finances and decides whether it should be declared in fiscal distress. In such cases, the department could move to remove a superintendent and/or the board. But Hopson said today's meeting only was to get Kimbrell's perspective. "How that can be construed as a meeting to dissolve a board, I don’t know."
He said he'd told his top staff members to "stay encouraged"
The School Board will meet at 6 p.m. Monday to discuss the audit and a response. Following is Hopson's note to Board members with the expense analysis I linked above:
Hello Board Members,
Right before my trip to China, I was contacted by legislative audit about the details of my contract. I contacted Mike Cochran, my contract negotiator to provide an indepth anylasis of my relocation receipts to make sure I was not in error on the stipulations in my contract. I initially had it done for my benefit, but in light of recent developments, I will share it with all of you if questions arise or just to help you understand the context of why I used the relocation income
stipend the way I did as I transitioned to Arkansas. I gave a copy to Deb Roush for communication purposes if there are media inquiries, but the interest appears to be weak which I think is good, but the general public may approach you all individually with questions.