Some members of the Harris County Board of Education have threatened to fire the superintendent if he doesn't resign before Thursday night's meeting, the superintendent's lawyer told the Ledger-Enquirer on Wednesday.
Via email and phone, Ted Theus explained that superintendent Jimmy Martin has had personality conflicts with certain representatives on the seven-member board.
“As a Harris County resident, I was personally shocked to hear about the desire on the part of some to fire Dr. Martin, as I have heard nothing but positive things about him from neighbors and Harris County teachers that I have worked with in my law practice,” Theus said.
The agenda for Thursday night’s meeting, set to start at 6:30 p.m. in the board’s office, 132 Barnes Mill Road in Hamilton, has a closed session scheduled at the end of the meeting. The topic isn’t disclosed. That’s when the board will discuss firing Martin, Theus said.
Martin has two years left on his contract, Theus said. The board unanimously hired him in April 2014 from Chattahoochee County, where he was superintendent for six years. At that time, Karen Hopkins, then the Harris County board’s chairwoman, said Martin’s salary will be the same package retired superintendent Craig Dowling received: $135,000 per year. Martin’s last salary in ChattCo was $107,800.
At-large representative Steve Goodnoe and Bethany Lucas of District 5 are the only members remaining on the board that hired Martin.
The evidence that Martin’s job is at risk came from board chairman Shane Lipp of District 1, Theus said.
“This was communicated to Dr. Martin by Shane Lipp, but since Dr. Martin was not part of many of the discussions between the board members, he doesn’t know what position the other board members may have taken or may take tomorrow night.”
But this much is clear: “Dr. Martin simply would like to keep his job with Harris County and does not desire to resign,” Theus said.
The Ledger-Enquirer emailed Theus’ allegation to Lipp and sought his reaction. In his reply Wednesday night, Lipp said, “I am aware of the article; however, because this a personnel matter I am unable to comment.”
Lipp also didn’t answer the Ledger-Enquirer’s questions asking for his opinion of Martin and his job performance and whether he wants the superintendent to be replaced.
Goodnoe is the only other board member the Ledger-Enquirer reached before deadline.
Asked to respond to Theus’ allegation, Goodoe said in a phone interview, “You’re breaking news to me. If that’s the case, it’s a personnel issue, and I can’t discuss it. That’s all I can say.”
Asked whether he supports Martin to continue as superintendent, Goodnoe said, “I can’t comment either way.”
Later on Wednesday night, the Ledger-Enquirer asked Lipp to respond to another allegation from Theus: In addition to personality conflicts with board members, Martin has disagreed with some board members about their desire for him to fire certain employees or his desire to keep certain employees.
“Again, I am unable to comment on this matter,” Lipp said.