It might be legal by the letter of the law, but the contract of Richmond County schools Superintendent Charles Larke may skirt the intent of the law through "clever lawyering," a legal expert says.
Robert B. Ahdieh, an Emory University law professor with expertise in contract law, reviewed the portion of the contract in question and said Friday it seems to be consistent with Georgia Code 20-2-101, the pertinent state law.
Earlier this month, Super District 9 school board member A.K. Hasan began publicly questioning the legality of the superintendent's contract. Specifically, he questioned the manner in which the three-year contract never penetrates into the second or third year because a new three-year contract is offered automatically if the superintendent receives a favorable annual review.
"It seems that this language does not make for a perpetual contract," Mr. Ahdieh said in a telephone interview.
The contract requires that a "new" contract be offered if the superintendent receives a satisfactory evaluation but doesn't stipulate the conditions of that contract, he said. The new contract could be distinctly different.
Reading into the law seems to suggest that its spirit isn't being followed, Mr. Ahdieh said.
Don Rooks, a legislative specialist for the Georgia School Boards Association, said he was at the General Assembly when the law was passed. The General Assembly ended tenure for school administrators in 1995, so school systems began including automatic rollovers in contracts, he said. A year or two later, the state prohibited those, too, because they amounted to tenure.
"The intent of 101 is surely not to say superintendents can only serve for three years," he said. "An understanding of the context would seem to me to sort of say this is an end run around what the Legislature intended, but that unfortunately is how lawyers make a living."
That's a "zealous advocacy" of your client's interests, he said.
"It does clearly create this tension where you've got a contract provision that does sort of fly in the face of what we think 101 was probably trying to do, but I don't think it flies in the face of what the language of 101 actually does," Mr. Ahdieh said.