A Tuesday night decision by the Phenix City Board of Education to buy out the contract of Superintendent Larry DiChiara could cost the school district more than $750,000 in a lump sum, according to terms of the deal confirmed by DiChiara and board attorney Sydney Smith.
DiChiara said Wednesday that the seven-member board will honor the terms of his contract. DiChiara makes about $160,000 annually, but that does not include benefits such as health and life insurance and a car allowance. He had four and a half years left on his contract.
“They will honor all of the terms of the contract,” said DiChiara, who has been at the helm of the district for almost a decade. Board President Brad Baker, reached Wednesday afternoon, declined to discuss terms of the buyout, He referred all questions to Smith.
DiChiara’s contract provides for a lump sum settlement, Smith said.
“The board is prepared to pay him a lump sum,” she said late Wednesday.
Smith and DiChiara will work out the details and that figure will become public, Smith said.
“Dr. DiChiara needs to get his calculations, the board needs to get its calculations, then we can make sure everyone is in agreement,” Smith said.
DiChiara said he has spent time since the board faxed its decision to news outlets trying to assure his friends and former colleagues he is OK.
“My concern rests with the teachers, administrators and people in this community who are very confused by this,” DiChiara said. “They are the ones who are suffering right now.”
The way it was handled led people to believe he was terminated, DiChiara said.
“I have been assuring people that nothing bad happened to me,” he said. “An agreement was made. I have not been mistreated. I am fine.”
Smith would not go into details about why the buyout took place.
“Dr. DiChiara has been an asset to this board and this school system in so many ways,” Smith said. “We do not want to make any comment in light of his right to privacy.”
DiChiara sent an email to the district’s teachers and staff late Tuesday night.
“Allow me to start off by first apologizing to you for the sudden information you received tonight regarding the end of my tenure as superintendent of the Phenix City schools. I was beaten to the punch,” he wrote in his email.
DiChiara thanked the teachers and staff for their hard work and dedication to the district and expressed his love for them.
“Our parents and community do no realize just how fortunate they are to have the dedicated and caring people nurturing their children,” he concluded.
Smith said board members took this action seriously,
“This board is appointed by city council to represent the citizens,” Smith said. “They have made a decision in the best interest of the school system.”
DiChiara, 54, said he will pursue job opportunities in all aspects of education.
“I have had a lot of opportunities throughout my tenure,” DiChiara said. “I have had job offers that I did not pursue because I had a job. I am sure there are some other opportunities that will present themselves.”
Last year DiChiara applied for superintendent of the Muscogee County School District, but was not interviewed. Polk County’s (Fla.) David Lewis was hired in July.
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.
Prior to that he was a successful basketball coach at Loachapoka High School, where he won two Alabama state titles in the late 1980s.
Rodney S. Hinton will serve as the interim superintendent. The board is expected to begin its search for a new superintendent immediately.