There was a separation agreement approved at the December school board meeting for former Superintendent Scott Baker. A separation agreement is a contract. This contract was approved during the lame duck period at the end of 2021 without the required 30-days’ notice to enter into contract changes. Therein lies the problem.
22.1-60 of the Virginia code subsection C and D states that no contracts can be negotiated during the lame duck session and without 30 days’ notice. Therefore, the separation agreement, which is a contract, is illegal.
Former Chair Dawn Shelley led a 4-3 vote along with Daniels, Braswell, and Grampp in approving this illegal contract. Baker supporters will argue that he has grounds to sue the school division because a separation agreement was in place. However, this separation agreement is a contract that cannot be enforced because its illegal per VA Code 22.1-60.
There has been much speculation about former Spotsylvania County Schools Superintendent Scott Baker’s termination, potential lawsuits by Baker, and whether there was a valid reason for termination. We believe there are plenty of valid reasons including the ones we wrote about in earlier articles.
In addition, Baker is fully accountable for any issues that occurred on his watch. The reason is that school board policy BG-R gave Baker full authority to run the day-to-day operations of the school division without interference. The policy prevents individual school board members from interacting with staff or directly resolving parent issues. This is literally written in the policy. This BG-R policy was passed in 2019 and pushed by Shelley, Grampp, and Braswell.
Since Virginia is an at-will employment state, an employee can be fired with or without cause anytime. A reason does not have to be given. It is bizarre that media outlets like the Free Lance Star highlight the phrase “without cause” as if that carries any substantive meaning in an “at will” state.
In 2019, Spotsylvania County Schools lost over $600,000 to a phishing scam by making payment on a fraudulent invoice for artificial turf fields. This issue was covered extensively by the media at the time. Some of the money was recovered. However, taxpayers should be outraged at the lack of some basic financial controls that Superintendent Baker should have implemented.
As the Superintendent, Scott Baker is in charge of the entire school system. This includes ensuring that financial controls are in place to support a $300 million dollar budget. We believe clear financial controls would have prevented the fraudulent payment from occurring. Let’s walk thru these problems point by point.
Where is the CFO? – To our surprise, Spotsylvania County Schools still lacks a Chief Financial Officer. The school division has a Finance Director. However, there is a big difference in the duties of a CFO and a Finance Director. A finance director is in essence the accountant and subordinate to the CFO.
Where is the Internal Auditor? – To our surprise, there is still no internal auditor. Two years has passed since this $600000 plus payment was made. It is our understanding there has been resistance to hiring one.
Policy DK – School Board Policy DK gives a rough idea on how invoice payments work. The policy references a CFO, but one does not exist. To summarize, one person reviews the invoices, the clerk of the school board signs off on the payment, and a third person handles disbursement of funds. Was this policy followed?
Rigorous Protocols – For policy DK to work effectively, the administration needs to implement rigorous protocols. If there is a large amount of money involved, where is the paper trail? Why aren’t more people signing off on this prior to payment? To our knowledge, nothing has been put forth publicly to protect the taxpayer.
Financial control 101 – It appears making this $600,000 plus payment was too easy. It is common knowledge for organizations that make large payments to verify account numbers and invoices directly with the vendor. Any bank has this disclaimer whenever you wire or transfer money.
Ethical issues surround the tenure of outgoing Spotsylvania County Schools Superintendent Scott Baker. Baker is not infallible as his supporters suggest. One such ethical issue is the email sent by the school division just before the election promoting then candidate Nicole Cole. We wrote about this in an earlier article.
The school division promoted a “college financial seminar” for a candidate running for school board just days before the election. We find the timing of this email very suspicious. In essence, the school administration provided extra advertising for Cole. To the best of our knowledge, Baker did not hold anyone accountable or acknowledged the problem just like the cheerleading banner controversy.
Baker is responsible for implementing school board policies thru the management of school employees. School Board Policy GBG clearly prevents anyone in the school division from promoting political candidates. There is no justification for allowing this to occur on his watch.
An employee may not………”suggest in any manner that the school division or any component of it supports or opposes a candidate for election an any office” and “use the employee’s position within the school division to further a political cause”. It is clear that the Cole email from the school division more than just “suggests” the support of a candidate because of the timing and conflict of interest.
Public speakers at recent school board meetings and newspaper editorials have praised Superintendent Scott Baker as if the man can do no wrong. We have ethical concerns with the now departing superintendent. Here is one such concern.
On October 16, 2021, we wrote an article about political advertisements appearing on a cheerleading banner at the Massaponax High School stadium. The issue isn’t whether the cheerleaders had a legit fundraiser. The issue is that political advertising clearly violates school board policy because this was a school activity on school grounds with school employees present. Yet, Dr Baker did nothing to address this issue. We encourage you to read our original article to put this into context. https://spotsywire.com/2021/10/16/political-signs-on-school-property-violate-school-board-policy/
To our knowledge, no one has been held accountable. Superintendent Scott Baker has not issued an apology or acknowledgement of the problem. We emailed Dr Baker and Massaponax High School activities director Stan Clements for a response. Neither have responded to the emails we sent on October 16.
There is another potential problem. If the students were responsible for selling sponsor slots on the banner, then state law was violated. In 22.1-79.3 of the Virginia code, it states “Local school boards shall develop and implement policies to ensure that public school students are not required to convey or deliver any materials that (i) advocate the election or defeat of any candidate for elective office”. School Board Policy GBG addresses this. Baker is responsible for implementing this policy by ensuring school staff comply.
Dr Baker allowed this policy violation to occur without anyone being held accountable. The banner appeared more than once in front of hundreds if not thousands of people. Is it ethical for a Superintendent to promote certain candidates up for election?
Spotsylvania County Schools sent an email to parents at Courtland High School promoting a college workshop on November 3rd hosted by school board candidate Nicole Cole.
With the election on November 2nd, the timing of this email is not just a coincidence. It is a conflict of interest. Spotsylvania Schools Superintendent Scott Baker has not apologized, retracted, or removed Cole’s name and picture. Scott Baker is allowing free advertising for the Cole campaign just days ahead of the election. In our view, this is corrupt behavior by Baker. He should know better than to allow something like this to occur.