MADISON TOWNSHIP -- Jeff Meyers said Thursday evening it's time for the Madison Local School District to move forward.
"We are going to now turn the page on this part of what we have been dealing with and move on. That's all we can do," the school board president said after the board voted 4-1 to approve a resignation agreement with Supt. Shelley Hilderbrand.
The resignation of Hilderbrand, on paid administrative leave since Sept. 21, 2018, takes effect on July 31, though she will be paid through the end of the 2019-2020 school year, when her three-year contract ends.
The contract calls for Hilderbrand to be paid $115,000 annually. She will paid in 26 equal installments during the 2019-2020 school year. Her annuity of $14,000 will be paid in December. She will also be paid for unused vacation days.
"We bought her out. We had no choice," Meyers said. "We signed a three-year contract (in 2017). We had to honor the three-year contract."
Reflecting on the decision to hire Hilderbrand, Meyers said he didn't believe the board would have done anything differently in her hiring process.
Hilderbrand's tenure at Madison was embroiled in controversy, including a brief walk-out by approximately 200 Madison High School students in March 2018 to protest her decision to discipline students who directed negative tweets toward the administration on her Twitter feed.
Also in March, a group of parents questioned the STEM curriculum that was to become mandatory in the district in the place of other electives.
In May, 2018, Hildebrand recommended the board not renew the contract of popular teacher Eddie Walker. More than 150 people attended a May 31, 2018, school board meeting and it was agreed by a unanimous vote of the board that Walker's contract should be renewed.
Madison Board of Education meetings drew significant crowds last summer as the community questioned a number of decisions. Those concerns led to a Town Hall meeting on July 11.
"As it turns out, and I have said it before, it just wasn't the right fit. All the pieces seemed as if they were going to be fine. But it just didn't work out that way," Meyers said.
Board member Amy Walker cast the only dissenting vote, though she affirmed she believes Hilderbrand needed to go.
"As I sit here with this resignation agreement in front of me, I can tell you that part of this agreement I support, part of it I do not," Walker said before the vote.
"Even thought I am confident the agreement in its entirety is the only proper legal course we can take at this point, unless we bring Ms. Hilderbrand back, which is definitely not something I would support.
"Therefore, the part of this agreement I support is the resignation portion. However, I cannot in good conscience support the parts of the agreement pertaining to her payment. Again I understand that this is the only legal course of action we can currently take, but knowing there were other steps the board could have taken before it got to this point is preventing me from supporting the entire agreement," Walker said.
John Thomas, 71, was hired as the new superintendent on May 28, replacing Lee Kaple, who stepped in after Hilderbrand was placed on paid administrative leave. Thomas marks the third superintendent the district has had in less than a year.
When Kaple accepted the position after serving as Madison superintendent for eight years, he told the board he didn't want to have his new role for more than a school year.
Meyers said Thomas made it clear he will lead the district for just one year, though a search for an external candidate, if needed, would likely begin in December or January.
"(Thomas) is going to be mentoring our internal candidates so they may be able to step into that position in a year. After a year, or when the time comes to make decisions about a superintendent, we are going to ask him for a recommendation on what to do.
"At that point, (Thomas) will make a recommendation. He will be able to tell us, 'Hey, let's search' or 'I am pretty confident one of the internal candidates can slide in and do a good job.'"