Harris County School District superintendent Jimmy Martin has resigned.
After a two-hour closed session at the end of Thursday night’s meeting, the seven-member Harris County Board of Education voted 6-0 without public discussion to accept Martin’s resignation. Scott Greene of District 4 was absent.
Board members continued to be mum about the falling out with Martin. Board chairman Shane Lipp of District 1 and board lawyer Jeff Todd declined to comment after the meeting, although Todd did say Martin’s resignation is effective immediately.
The board also voted 5-1 to appoint assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction Debbie Korytoski as acting superintendent. No plan for a superintendent search was announced, and Lipp wouldn’t comment about that process.
Martin didn’t attend the meeting, and no resignation letter was available, but he replied to the Ledger-Enquirer’s questions with this written statement Thursday night:
“Harris County is a great community with outstanding students, teachers, administrators, and employees,” Martin said. “I am truly grateful for the opportunity to have worked with these wonderful people. Unfortunately, as
we all know the Superintendent’s position is highly political. You have to make difficult decisions on a daily basis some popular and some not. Having been a school district Superintendent for 10 years, I know that and understand it. It is sad that all too often this can become the focus rather than the achievements and education of students.”
That’s why he didn’t attend the meeting, Martin said.
“The board chair had asked me earlier today not to be present at the board meeting,” Martin said. “The reason I adhered to this request was the May board meeting recognizes the accomplishments of many of our Harris County students and I want the focus to be on their accomplishments. It is my hope moving forward that many of our elected boards of education will step back and seriously look for ways to work collaboratively with their Superintendents to do what’s best for students. These efforts need to be productive and done for the right reasons. This is why I chose to resign, because a termination and lengthy drawn out fight is not productive for anyone especially our students and community. Nastiness has no place when it comes to educating our children.”
The Ledger-Enquirer reported Wednesday that Martin’s lawyer, Ted Theus, said Lipp warned the superintendent, if he didn’t resign, board members would vote to fire him after a closed session during Thursday night’s meeting.
Via email and phone, Theus told the Ledger-Enquirer that 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 Ledger-Enquirer unsuccessfully asked school district and board officials for a copy of Martin’s contract, but Theus said the superintendent had two years left on the contract. 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 would 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 Harris County board that hired Martin.
The evidence that Martin’s job is at risk came from Lipp, 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.”
Theus said Wednesday, “Dr. Martin simply would like to keep his job with Harris County and does not desire to resign.” That decision changed the following day.
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.
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.