Less than two weeks after approving a five-year deal with Lancaster ISD Superintendent Elijah Granger, the school board voted in a 4-3 decision to buy out his contract.
The contract stipulated a salary of $350,000 per year and included a provision stating that should the board unilaterally terminate Granger’s contract, he would be paid the full amount of the five-year contract including the cost of benefits.
According to a court petition from the three board members who opposed the buyout — Marion Hamilton, Ty G. Jones, and Carolyn Ann Morris — Granger’s total severance package amounted to $2,036,567.07.
The three trustees claim in their petition that on October 29, when the district approved the five-year extension to Granger’s contract, “The District issued to Granger, upon information and belief, a positive evaluation of his Superintendent performance for the 2019-20 school year.”
They note that a few days after the board’s president, Ellen Clark, lost her reelection bid, Lancaster ISD published a November 6 notice announcing a closed board meeting three days later to consult with legal counsel concerning a voluntary separation agreement of the superintendent.
“No known disputes (major or minor) arose in the one-week time between the District and Granger” between October 29 and November 6, the lawsuit claims.
Documents in the petition show that Hamilton emailed Granger requesting a copy of the separation agreement in advance of the meeting, but Granger responded, saying, “This is closed session meeting and all documents will be shared in closed session. Have a good evening.”
On Thursday, a Dallas County judge issued a temporary restraining order to prohibit the school district from paying Granger the $2 million.
Also on Thursday, the school board agreed during its regular meeting to table a budget amendment that would transfer $2.24 million out of its fund budget for the buyout.
Shonna Pumphrey, the district’s chief financial officer, told the board that the buyout would essentially obliterate their savings.
“It’s going to reduce our projected fund balance to virtually nothing,” said Pumphrey. “As you recall in August, we budgeted fairly conservatively to allow the district some cushion in the midst of the pandemic. This particular amendment would virtually clear out any of the reserves and things we had left for ourselves.”
The motion to table passed in another 4-3 vote, this time with newly elected board member Kendall Smith voting alongside the three who opposed the original buyout decision.
With the motion tabled and a temporary restraining order issued against the district, the outcome of the district’s buyout of Granger’s contract remains uncertain.
The county court reportedly scheduled a hearing for the case on December 2, and the next regular meeting of the board is scheduled for December 17.
The full petition from Hamilton, Jones, and Morris can be found below.
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Daniel Friend is a reporter for The Texan. He participated in a Great Books program at Azusa Pacific University and graduated in 2019 with a degree in Political Science. He has studied C.S. Lewis’s science fiction trilogy and in his spare time you might find him writing his own novel partly inspired by the series.