Loudon County school board to let director's contract lapse

Wayne Honeycutt's term may end without renewal

By Hugh G. Willett knoxnews.com
Wayne HoneycuttLENOIR CITY — Wayne Honeycutt, the director of Loudon County schools, may be out of a job when his contract expires June 30, 2011.

The school board has scheduled a workshop for Jan. 6 to discuss the search for a new director.

The board gave Honeycutt a score of 2.2 out of a possible 5 points in his most recent annual evaluation. In September, a majority of the board voted not to renew Honeycutt’s $112,000 per year contract.

According to the terms of the contract, the school board may extend/renew the terms of the contract at any time with concurrence of the director up to a maximum term of three years.

However, the contract states, “unless the board acts on or before the 31st day of December 2010, or six months before the expiration date of the contract, such failure to act shall serve as notice … that the board does not intend to extend/renew the contract.”

According to board member Van Shaver, if the board takes no action by Friday, “that would essentially be a termination notice to the director.”

Board member Bobby Johnson Jr., who voted not to renew Honeycutt’s contract, said he expected more from Honeycutt. “He’s a great guy but we need someone who is a leader,” Johnson said.

Johnson said the board could conceivably wait until June to take action on a new contract.

“It still might be possible to work something out,” he said.

According to Shaver, the only item on the Jan. 6 agenda is the discussion of a search for a new director. The board needs to act quickly, he said.

“We’re hoping to wrap up the search in about three months,” he said.

Honeycutt, former director of schools in Sangamon Valley, Ill., found himself in a tempest from the moment he became Loudon schools director in July 2008.

One of the most controversial issues has been the funding of a new K-12 school in Greenback, estimated to cost somewhere between $15 million and $24 million.

The school board and commission cannot agree on whether other less expensive building projects, such as a cafeteria in Philadelphia or new middle school in Loudon, should be given priority over Greenback. The director was expected to take ownership of the issues such as the building program, Johnson said.

Honeycutt points out that the commission and school board were divided on the building program long before he became director.

“There have been issues between the board and commission for years. What I’ve tried to do is what’s best for the children of Loudon County,” he said.

Board member Gary Ubben voted in September to extend Honeycutt’s contract and feels the director needs more time.

Only a few members of the school board that voted to hire Honeycutt in 2008 are still sitting on the panel, and working without a strong mandate from the board can make a director’s job more difficult, he said.

Ubben also said he is concerned that a change in the director might lead to even further delays in the school building program.

“Trying to change directors now I don’t think is a good idea,” he said. “We might lose momentum.”