CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- The Bradley County Board of Education will meet Feb. 24 to consider a buyout agreement that would end its contract with Johnny McDaniel, director of the county school system.
"This is a black eye and a sad day for Bradley County Schools," said Troy Weathers, a former school board member and outspoken supporter of McDaniel.
On Monday, an announcement of the meeting was jointly issued by McDaniel and Nicholas Lillios, chairman of the school board, one day after a Times Free Press story was published about a petition effort to retain McDaniel's services.
Shortly after the beginning of the current school year, "the Board of Education and Mr. McDaniel became aware that they had differing opinions" about how the director's administration should operate, according to the meeting announcement.
The news release also stated that McDaniel, whose contract ends June 30, 2016, proposed that "it would be in the best interest of Bradley County Schools" to buy out the remaining months of his contract. That conclusion was reached after "discussing these differing opinions" with board members.
McDaniel could not be reached for comment.
On Feb. 6, Lillios denied that any contract buyout action was in the works, attributing rumors and speculation as the driving force behind the petition to retain McDaniel.
Shortly after the buyout proposal was announced, Lillios said his discussions with McDaniel had not been ready to be announced on Feb. 6.
The Bradley County Board of Education has not held any public discussion about a buyout of McDaniel's contract.
No details of the buyout agreement were revealed by Lillios.
Lillios also addressed how the 1:30 p.m. time for the special meeting to consider the contract buyout could affect public participation by supportive teachers and others.
"I guess I never really thought about it," Lillios said. "It was a mutually convenient time agreed upon by board members, the director of schools and the attorney."
Most school board meetings are held in the evenings; a number of special work sessions have been scheduled on Saturday mornings.
A Change.org petition started by Facebook community group Bradley County Education Alliance in support of McDaniel has received nearly 1,200 signatures, with a number of commenters identifying themselves as Bradley County educators, students and parents of students.
A few hours before the buyout announcement, the Bradley County Commission discussed whether to formally vote on a resolution of support for McDaniel after receiving a copy of the petition.
Commissioner Dan Rawls, founder of the Tea Party of Southeast Tennessee, questioned what conversations the petition to retain McDaniel were based on, considering no such topic had been discussed by the school board.
An hour after the county commission meeting, Rawls issued an email to undisclosed recipients about the regular Feb. 12 school board meeting, asking people to "please contact me and I will discuss what is needed."
Rawls, who has voiced criticism of Bradley County Schools' administration on a number of occasions in recent years, stated that the only thing he intended to discuss with responders was to encourage them to attend the meeting. However, the email specifically asks those people who plan to attend, to respond.
He also dismissed the basis for the petition, stating he thought it was about "someone needing attention."
Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at email@example.com.