School board argues, gives administrator $200K to walk away

David Lawrence, whose role had been diminished under new superintendent, will leave district

After a long disagreement Tuesday night, Dayton’s school board approved a resignation and buyout settlement for longtime Dayton Public Schools administrator David Lawrence, who board members said had been on leave.

Lawrence was a candidate for superintendent last year, but after the school board hired Rhonda Corr for that role, Corr reassigned Lawrence to a “special assignments” role that was outside the district’s core leadership team.

Lawrence, who is bound by a non-disparagement clause, on Wednesday dismissed school board claims of a personality conflict between Corr and himself. He added that a new administration has the right to put employees in the roles it sees fit, and said he was fine with the “special assignment” role he was given.

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School board members Adil Baguirov and Joe Lacey argued against the buyout, saying it was irresponsible for a district with so many needs, and that had just done layoffs, to pay someone $200,000 to go away.

Baguirov clarified Wednesday that the buyout figure was over $200,000 when negotiations started, but will likely end up around $190,000 as time and paychecks have passed. The agreement calls for Lawrence to be paid for salary, benefits and the district’s retirement contribution through the end of his contract in June 2018. He will also be paid for his accumulated vacation leave.

“This is taxpayers’ money. To give out over $200,000 to somebody who hasn’t worked for that period is not right,” Baguirov said. “This is not some golden parachute situation. This is not something that this board of education should be doing, because it’s absolutely wrong.”

Board member Ron Lee argued in favor of the move, saying Lawrence’s reassignment had been mishandled months ago, and it was the right thing to let him go.

“Holding someone on administrative leave for this long … to me is mind-boggling,” Lee said. “I remind Dr. Baguirov, when this issue first came to us, it was under his watch (as board president at the time). I think we’re doing a disservice and disrespect to someone who has so much to give. … I think the right thing for this district to do is to let this individual walk away with their pride and their respect for what they have done for this district.”

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Lawrence is a former DPS teacher who served as assistant principal at Stivers, then principal at Thurgood Marshall. He left DPS briefly to serve as chief academic officer as the Dayton Regional STEM School, but quickly returned as chief of school innovation.

He was in that role until this summer, when Corr made him chief of special assignments. That included oversight of the newly created Office of Males of Color, as well as Longfellow Academy and the DPS-sponsored charter school, Dayton Business Technology High School. He has spent 21 of his 22 years in education with DPS.

The eventual vote on the settlement was 4-2 in favor, with Baguirov and Lacey voting no. Sheila Taylor was absent.

Corr would not comment to the media on Lawrence’s situation.

Lawrence wouldn’t say who started the negotiations that led to his resignation and settlement, but he said once attorneys were involved, he stepped away from his DPS role.

Lawrence said he “had probably given all I could give,” citing long hours that put strain on his wife and kids. He said he’s now considering starting his own high school.

“I wouldn’t trade anything for the 21 years I spent in this district,” Lawrence said. “Ask anybody in these schools, and they may have positive or negative things to say about me, but one thing they won’t say is that I wasn’t a worker.”

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