Embattled Burlington Schools Superintendent Jeanne Collins will step down June 30 under a separation agreement approved by the school board Tuesday night.
The board voted unanimously to accept the agreement, which means Collins will be leaving two years before her contract expires. Details of the pact, including any money that will be paid to Collins under the agreement, were not immediately available.
Patrick Halladay, board chair, said the agreement would be released Tuesday night or possily Wednesday.
Neither he nor Collins would comment further Tuesday night and both said a joint agreement from the board and superintendent would be issued Wednesday.
Administrators and teachers who spoke in support of Collins before the vote lined up a dozen deep to embrace the superintendent and wish her well after the separation agreement was approved. It passed in open session with essentially no discussion after Halladay introduced a motion that had apparently been vetted by board members in advance.
Collins, who resisted calls for her resignation earlier this spring, was composed and responded warmly to her supporters. She displayed no surprise about the vote.
Collins has been under intense pressure as the district's chronic budget deficits and financial woes hit the public spotlight this spring in the wake of the first city school budget defeat since 2003.
The district has logged deficits in seven out of the last ten years and an audit for 2013 showed overspending in many areas. The deficits occurred as voters approved budgets carrying large spending and tax increases to help pay for major school improvements, a one-to-one computer program, more English language learner teachers and more programming to address racial and socio-economic inequities in Burlington, Vermont's most diverse school district.
When an informal audit showed the scale of the deficit problem increasing this year, Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger called for Collins to step down, a highly unusual political step in a city where many mayors have taken a hands-off approach to the school department.
Collins initially spoke strongly in her defense and rebuffed the mayor's suggestion.
While some parents defended Collins' performance, others asked her to go.
Critics included Burlington father of three Dan Feeney, who urged the board during public comment Tuesday to find a new superintendent. The district needs a leader who can clearly articulate why the public should pass the new school budget proposal for next year, say where the money is going, and what will happen over the next few years, Feeney said. Jeanne Collins is not that person, he told them. "We need leadership in this community at this time," Feeney said. He thanked Collins for her service.
Others were dismayed by the board's decision. Terry Buehner, a longtime teacher at Burlington High School, had urged the board to retain Collins and maintain stability in the district. After the vote she was disappointed.
"We're headed into I think the worst crisis we've been in in 50 years," Buehner said.
Young teachers in the district are seeking jobs elsewhere and mature teachers are taking jobs elsewhere, Buehner said. Burlington citizens and parents need to stand up to protect the school system and protect the education that children deserve, she said.
"Burlington schools may lose more than what they are going to gain with the decisions that were made tonight," Buehner said.
Collins has been under intense pressure to resign before, but managed to ride out the storm. In 2012 she hung onto her job amid controversy about inequities around race and lack of progress on goals to hire more diverse faculty, administrators and staff. Collins earns over $125,000 annually and was promoted to superintendent in 2006 after serving as special education director.