UPDATE: DiChiara out as Phenix City superintendent

spedersen@ledger-enquirer.com, chwilliams@ledger-enquirer.comNovember 26, 2013 

Two years after being named the state’s superintendent of the year, Larry DiChiara is no longer with the Phenix City school board, according to a news release.

The Phenix City Board of Education took the action after a called meeting Tuesday. Rodney S. Hinton will serve as the interim superintendent.

The board is expected to begin its search for a new superintendent immediately, according to the release.

DiChiara, who has multiple years left on his contract, said the board bought out the contract Tuesday night.

“We all agreed to a buyout,” DiChiara said.

He declined to discuss the details.

“It’s important that we don’t make any statement right now,” he said.

DiChiara, 54, was making approximately $160,000 a year. He has 33 years as an educator in Alabama and is eligible for retirement.

Reached by phone Tuesday night, board members Florence Bellamy and Fran Ellis referred all questions to school board attorney Sydney Smith. Calls to Smith were not answered Tuesday.

Phenix City Mayor Eddie Lowe said he learned of DiChiara’s departure after working out Tuesday night.

“It is my understanding they had a called board meeting,” Lowe said.

Lowe was on the school board that hired DiChiara. He left the school board when he was elected mayor last year and said he has stayed out of school business.

“That is a different board and a different entity,” Lowe said.

The mayor said he did not know why the board took the action, and he had not been informed of any issues with DiChiara.

DiChiara’s nearly nine and a half year tenure included some high and low points.

As well as being named the 2011 State Superintendent of the Year, the Freshman Academy and Lakewood Primary were both opened during DiChiara’s time and enrollment continues to grow.

But DiChiara had a long running feud with the previous city council, especially with former city councilman Jimmy Wetzel, who tried to remove DiChiara from the position.

Wetzel once accused DiChiara of meddling in politics and trying to segregate the school district. Their disagreements came as the city and school district were tussling over whether council could remove school board members before the end of their terms.

Before taking the superintendent job in Phenix City, DiChiara served as director of administrative services for the Lee County Board of Education, where he spent the majority of his career. He holds a bachelors, masters and doctorate from Auburn University.

Just last year DiChiara applied for superintendent of the Muscogee County School District. Polk County’s (Fla.) David Lewis has been in that position since this summer.

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