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Board is baffled by resignation

For 5{ years, Bill Humbaugh was an executive director overseeing millions of dollars in purchasing, construction, transportation and maintenance functions for the school district.

But Superintendent David Hickey, who has been assembling his executive team since taking office last fall, did not reappoint Humbaugh. Instead, he created a position overseeing purchasing and warehouse functions, which the School Board approved with some reservations, and recommended Humbaugh for the job.

Humbaugh said the novelty of the new job quickly wore off. Within an hour of the board's approval of Humbaugh's appointment, Hickey asked him to resign, effective March 1.

Last week, Humbaugh submitted his immediate resignation, deciding to take a position in the Lee County school system.

He wrote a letter to School Board members thanking them for their support, but noting that he felt he had no other choice but to leave the district. He went on to explain Hickey's action seeking his resignation.

Hickey rejects Humbaugh's scenario and said Humbaugh must have misunderstood him.

Humbaugh is sure he heard the conversation right. "He asked me to resign," he said last week.

Humbaugh said he had no choice but to seek another job. "I did what anybody would do faced with that limited ability for success," he said.

Board members said last week they don't know what to believe.

"It shocked me," said board Chairwoman Patience Nave. "To be asked to resign my new position just one hour after being appointed. That's shocking."

"I'm disappointed that a position was placed there for us to approve and, in good faith, we approved it when apparently it was not his (Hickey's) intention for Humbaugh to have that job," Nave said.

She said she spoke to Hickey before the vote and he assured her that Humbaugh knew a lot about purchasing and he would be a good fit.

"I don't understand how this is beneficial to the school district," Nave said. "I don't understand why he gave Bill Humbaugh this job. What was the whole point of this. I don't understand it."

Board member Carol Snyder was also upset with the scenario described by Humbaugh.

"I think it's disgraceful. That's what I think," Snyder said. "I felt that Bill Humbaugh was an excellent employee who has always done everything in his power to make things as efficient as he could."

Asking an employee to leave a job before even seeing them perform the job raises questions about the district's employment and re-employment decisions, she said.

Snyder said that Humbaugh told her he was "doomed before I even began. I can't work under these conditions."

Hickey told the board that the position was needed. While the board was reluctant to add another administrator to the payroll when teachers still hadn't been offered pay raises, they accepted Hickey's recommendation.

The board members noted that they have not been told the salary for the new position and they are trying to find out.

Hickey assured Snyder that he has qualified people who can fill the new post, but Snyder said she didn't know what to expect.

"It makes no sense to me whatsoever," Snyder said. "I really question whether that job will be filled immediately."

"I wanted (Humbaugh) in the position which is where I felt he could best serve the district," Hickey said. "I did not create that position for Humbaugh . . . but I felt that he had some talents he could bring to that job and that's why he was assigned to it."

As far as asking for his resignation an hour after Humbaugh was appointed, Hickey said, "What he says in that letter is not accurate. . . . It must have been miscommunication."

When Hickey told Humbaugh he would not be in the new job past March, Humbaugh explained that he needed another seven or so months to hit six years of service and be vested in the Florida retirement system. He said he would be willing to work through that period, then resign.

Hickey said that conversation might have caused the miscommunication. Hickey declined to say more about the issue citing the confidentiality he feels personnel decisions should have.

Board member Sandra "Sam" Himmel said Hickey had told her that the resignation request had been a misunderstanding. Still, the situation raises questions with Himmel about what really happened.

"I don't know why you would ask for someone to be appointed and then ask them to resign," she said. "If that was the conversation, why would you want to stay there?"

Himmel noted that Hickey could have decided next spring not to reappoint Humbaugh to the new job, so asking for a resignation up front did not make much sense.

Himmel also had mixed feelings about creating the job Humbaugh was recommended to fill.

"I had never heard before the board meeting that we were going to put Bill Humbaugh in this position, but I had heard rumors," Himmel said. "To create a job for someone, I don't support that 100 percent."

Himmel added that she would rather see the district add a teaching position when administrative jobs are added.

Board member Pat Deutschman said she had not talked to Hickey about Humbaugh's letter and did not want to jump to conclusions about the situation.

"Mr. Hickey has not shared any of these things with us and I'm not sure whether he has to share these things with us," Deutschman said. She noted that the superintendent's role is to make personnel decisions.

But that system doesn't set well with Snyder.

Snyder said the series of personnel decisions made by Hickey and questioned by the board and the public recently have her concerned about the way the district makes its hiring choices.

Even if the School Board were to make a public issue of their concerns and act as a group to direct Hickey to make changes in his methods, Snyder said the current structure of the district means he doesn't have to listen to them since he is an elected superintendent.

"I just have a lot of problems with this whole job scenario," she said.

"He's not answerable to anyone but the voters and that's not for another three to 3{ years."