Monday, April 23, 2018
Education

Letters and emails show strife as Canterbury School’s board resigns

ST. PETERSBURG — The Canterbury School of Florida has been gripped in recent weeks by strife and bruised feelings over a back-and-forth tussle over who will lead the private institution over the next few years.

School spokeswoman Heather Lambie confirmed this week that a new board of trustees plans to renegotiate the contract of Canterbury’s longtime head of school, Mac H. Hall, and "hopes to reach an amicable resolution with him."

But that was preceded by days of angst, according to emails obtained by the Tampa Bay Times.

At an Oct. 16 town hall meeting, the board announced that Hall’s contract would expire without renewal at the end of the academic year — news that did not sit well among many connected with the school. Board members followed up a day later with an email to Canterbury families, saying they had "every intention of working hard to regain your trust."

They added: "We want to reiterate our role and (apologize) for the manner in which we have handled this important decision."

Days later, it was announced in a second email that least 12 board members had resigned, except the president of the Parents Association, who will serve as an ex-officio member. The letter was authored by the new board and Joe Rogers, the previous board’s president, on the behalf of board members who resigned.

Four new board members have signed on and will appoint new members with consultation from the Florida Council of Independent Schools.

"The new board thanks the former board for their years of service to and passion for the school and its students, and for their individual decisions to resign from the board, for the good of Canterbury, in spite of their honest disagreement on various issues," the letter read.

After that, Hall, in his 13th year heading the school, chimed in with his own email to families. In it, he counts his blessings, thanks families for their support and calls for a time for healing.

"It is no secret that we, as a school, have experienced a very stressful time recently," he wrote. "It has been a time in which emotions have run high and conflict has saddened and confused us all."

He added: "For me, we are the Canterbury family, and just like with any family, members don’t always agree, but the common goal of doing what will help our children to grow and thrive has been and continues to be our guiding principle."

Referring to the new board, he wrote, "My hope is that we as the members of the Canterbury family can and will support this action and focus on a bright and hopeful future."

The emails did not reveal details about disagreements. Neither Rogers from the old board nor Hall returned requests for comment.

Marion Hale, one of the new board members, reaffirmed the new board’s commitment to renegotiating with Hall, though the new board has not had its first meeting.

According to Canterbury forms filed with the IRS, Hall’s total compensation was $258,078 in 2015, the latest available year. He made $152,750 when he came to Canterbury in 2005.

The school has 90 staff members serving nearly 500 students in PreK-3 through 12th grade on two campuses. Tuition ranges from $3,150 to $19,700.

The school has accepted money from the state’s tax-credit scholarships program for low-income students, taking in $589,000 over four years. It currently has 48 students on the scholarship.

The school spent $1.3 million on financial aid and tuition discounts for 123 students in 2015, according to the IRS documents.

Researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Contact Colleen Wright at [email protected] or (727) 893-8643. Follow @Colleen_Wright.

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