CHAMPAIGN — Arthur Culver will receive $75,000 as part of a settlement with the Champaign school district, an agreement that has been in the works for months.
Under the terms of the eight-page settlement agreement, obtained by The News-Gazette through a Freedom of Information Act request, Culver agreed to step down as of June 30, and the district will continue to pay his monthly health insurance premium through Sept. 30 unless he gets another job.
The agreement says Culver and the Unit 4 school board "agree not to make derogatory or disparaging comments, or negative references, with respect to the other party."
The agreement further states that any inquiries from prospective employers will be answered consistent with the terms of a mutually agreed-upon letter of reference; and that the community was to be notified about Culver's resignation through a joint press release.
The Champaign school board approved the settlement agreement Monday and announced his resignation on Tuesday.
Culver has been open in the past few weeks about his desire to move on. He was a finalist for a superintendent job in the DeKalb County school system in metropolitan Atlanta, but he withdrew his name from consideration for that job Monday.
He is leaving Champaign without a job in hand, and with three years remaining on his employment contract with the district. There have been rumblings for several months about his potential departure from the district.
School board President Dave Tomlinson said the settlement agreement has been in the works "for a few months."
"Both the board and the superintendent agreed that it was time for new leadership," he said. "The board and the superintendent think many great things have happened, (successfully ending) the consent decree particularly, but it's time to build on those foundations, re-energize and move forward."
Culver's contract states that it may be terminated by mutual agreement of the school board and the superintendent. It does not specify any severance pay or other compensation for the superintendent if the contract is terminated.
"It's absolutely common practice, when boards and superintendents decide to go their separate ways, there is a buyout," Tomlinson said. "This buyout is very small."
The $75,000 payout Culver will receive is about 30 percent of his annual salary of $246,851. (He also receives a $3,000 annual stipend for cell phone charges and mileage.)
At a press conference on Tuesday, Tomlinson emphasized all the successes the district has had during the nine years of Culver's leadership.
But Culver and his administrative team have met with resistance and mistrust from the public during their tenure. Some of that has been a reaction to the requirements placed on the district by a federal consent decree aimed at eliminating inequities in the education of black and white students, and the requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind law.
Culver, superintendent since 2002, was brought to the district to close the achievement gap between black and white students, and get the district through a federal consent decree, which ended in 2009.
Culver has also been criticized for not having enough of a presence in the community. One of the original performance goals of his contract specifies that Culver will provide leadership for the district to better communicate with the public and "will be a visible part of the community."
When the school board evaluated Culver in 2008, it emphasized the expectation that all the district's senior administrators would be heavily involved in the community.
There have been several instances in the past months of complaints related to Culver.
Some board members have expressed concern about Culver's contract and the length of his work year. His contract calls for fewer days of work than most area superintendents and other upper-level school administrators in Champaign.
Culver's contract states his work year consists of work days Monday through Friday, 12 months per year, for 240 days per year. That is 20 fewer work days than the 260 days required of other 12-month administrators. The contract provides 20 vacation days and two days of personal leave, as well as professional leave and sick leave. In an accounting of his time off from July 2009 through October 2010, obtained by The News-Gazette, Culver said he has 20 "non-work days" in addition to the 20 vacation days.
Tomlinson said there have been persistent rumors in the community about Culver related to finances and harassment.
"Those rumors are absolutely untrue," Tomlinson said, adding there have been no such accusations concerning Culver brought to the board.
"There are people that like Arthur. There are people that don't like Arthur," Tomlinson said. "We can't ignore the fact that our schools are in a much different place than they were. And that a lot of the community believes it's time to move on.
"As members of the board, our job is to look at the data of what happened (in the district), merge that with community input, and make decisions based on what we believe is best for the district," he continued. "That's what we collectively the seven of us (board members) and Arthur did in this case."