Florida's Polk County School Board decided to leave in place the automatic contract renewal for Wes Bridges, the school district’s attorney, despite dissension from some members at its meeting Wednesday night.
Bridges had submitted a letter of resignation Nov. 19, as he vied for a position in a Portland, Oregon, school district. However, he withdrew his letter of resignation Nov. 29. Bridges decided to withdraw his name after a vocal faction of that community opposed his appointment to the position.
“I determined that it would be difficult to be successful as a newcomer to the position, and the district allowed me to withdraw my name from consideration,” he said in a statement to The Oregonian on Dec. 1.
That means Bridges, who has served the Polk County district for the past 18 years, won’t be leaving anytime soon. At least if it’s up to the school board, which voted to hold no discussion on the matter of contract renewal, meaning Bridges’ contract will automatically renew Jan. 1, 2017.
Jason Geary, spokesman for the Polk County School District, told The Florida Record, “There was a meeting yesterday, and Mr. Bridges remains our school board attorney.”
According to Geary, there was some discord among board members concerning the contract, with two members requesting discussion on the matter during the regular work session.
“There was a meeting yesterday, and there was a discussion about whether they were going to bring that up for discussion ... but, ultimately, the majority of the board decided not to discuss that,” Geary said.
It’s no secret there is at least one board member actively seeking Bridges' removal. Billy Townsend has said in numerous statements he is less than pleased with Bridges' work and contract.
In a blog post dated Dec. 8, Townsend said, “My position remains that we should part ways with Wes Bridges as part of bringing a cultural change to this school district.”
Townsend added that the automatic renewal of a three-year contract ties the hands of future boards, which he considers poor management.
Although pressed by Townsend, the board took no action to discuss the renewal of Bridges' contract. The contract renews annually and provides for three years of service by Bridges from the date of renewal (Jan. 1) and keeps Bridges as the district’s attorney until 2020 and will pay him $149,320 annually, To terminate that contract, would require the district to pay a severance package of nearly $500,000, unless certain conditions are met.
It is unlikely the board will change positions, as Wednesday was the last regular board meeting for 2016.