Could school board re-election impact decision on Rick Smith buyout?

Rhonda Thurman expresses her concern about paying the superintendent to leave the Hamilton County School system in this photo from a school board meeting.
photo Photographed Monday, June 1, 2015, in Chattanooga, Tenn., George Ricks, Sr., is a member of the Hamilton County Board of Education.

Four Hamilton County Board of Education members who will help decide Superintendent Rick Smith's future on March 7 say the fact that they are up for re-election in August won't affect their decision.

Since the Dec. 22 rape of an Ooltewah High School freshman, residents across the county have criticized the school system's handling of the incident, and many say the board shouldn't agree to Smith's request to buy out his contract.

But during last week's school board meeting, board members were divided, debating whether Smith should keep his job, be fired or leave with a nearly half-million-dollar buyout.