Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Suspension Hangs over Ferguson-Florissant; Long Standoff; Superintendent Art McCoy May Finally Be Able to Confront Board; 8 Seek Office; Dispute Could Remake School Board in April 8 Election

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Suspension Hangs over Ferguson-Florissant; Long Standoff; Superintendent Art McCoy May Finally Be Able to Confront Board; 8 Seek Office; Dispute Could Remake School Board in April 8 Election

Article excerpt

Four months after Ferguson-Florissant suspended its superintendent, the conflict over his removal threatens to define an election that could change the makeup of the School Board.

Little has been made public about the reasons behind the suspension of Art McCoy, but differences between him and the board have been unresolved since November.

Now, closed hearings scheduled for tonight and Thursday could give McCoy an opportunity to confront the board for the first time.

This sort of standoff is rare in public schools. When at odds, superintendents and the boards that hire and fire them typically instead seek to reach an agreement for a resignation or a buyout of the remaining contract.

Should the hearings proceed, the decision about McCoy's fate would rest with the board, though an administrative judge would oversee the hearings.

If McCoy were unable to refute the charges with evidence and witnesses, the board could vote to terminate him for "cause." Such an action would free the district from having to pay the remaining salary and benefits in a contract that was supposed to run for two more years.

McCoy has continued to draw from his $217,644 annual salary since the 6-1 vote on Nov. 6. The hearing and board discussion would take place behind closed doors, and reaching a decision could take several days, board President Paul Morris said this week.

Whatever the outcome, McCoy, who is viewed by many as a popular rising young star in education, could have other opportunities. He said Tuesday that he has applied for the presidency at Harris-Stowe State University, where a committee is interviewing candidates and plans to make a selection in the next several weeks.

Morris said the fact that McCoy is considering another position elsewhere has no influence on the board's issues with him.

"We're concerned about our district. That's our only focus," he said.

MULTIPLE CANDIDATES

The McCoy issue has resulted in eight candidates for the April 8 election. The last election that brought out as many was three years ago, after another controversial board decision on lifetime health insurance for McCoy's predecessor. That was when Morris and the other incumbent running took their spots.

Now, the candidates are vying for three spots on the seven- member School Board. Two incumbents Morris and Rob Chabot are seeking re-election. Chris Martinez is not seeking another term.

Three of the candidates were interviewed and endorsed by a group that formed out of frustration with the current board's action against McCoy. Some in the group had previously called for the current board to resign.

After the initial vote to place McCoy on administrative leave, the School Board officially released a statement that cited "differences in focus and philosophy."

It also said the leave was not an indication of wrongdoing. …

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