Bob Connors, superintendent

Bob Connors

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The Bozeman School Board approved a severance package worth over $290,000 for its superintendent during a brief special board meeting Wednesday evening.

The trustees voted unanimously to approve the severance for Superintendent Bob Connors, who was placed on administrative leave for an alleged policy violation pending a performance review in early November.

The meeting lasted about 10 minutes, and no new details about why Connors was placed on leave were shared.

The severance agreement, which was reached by lawyers representing the school board and Connors, says “certain disputes and disagreements have arisen” between the district and Connors over his job duties.

“The bottom line is both parties have agreed to move on,” Chairperson Sandy Wilson said during the meeting.

The severance payment includes the money Connors would have made if he had remained employed with the school district from Feb. 1 until his contract was scheduled to end on June 30, 2022. It also includes vacation and unused sick leave, according to the agreement.

“The proposed settlement only pays out compensation that is owed under that contract. It does not assign fault or blame and therefore does not include damages or attorney fees for both parties,” Wilson said.

The agreement states Connors will receive the payment, which will come from the district’s general funds, no later than Jan. 31. The document also provides for a seven-day rescission period, during which the agreement can be canceled.

A district administrator told the Chronicle this weekend that the district would begin searching for a new superintendent immediately after the agreement was finalized.

Before taking Bozeman’s superintendent job in 2019, Connors served seven years as the superintendent at Glasgow Public Schools in northeast Montana. During the board meeting to confirm his hiring, Trustee Wendy Tage was the lone no vote.

At the beginning of 2020, trustees praised Connors’ work in the district. During his tenure, Connors directed the 7,000-student district during the pandemic. He also oversaw the opening of Bozeman’s second high school, Gallatin High.

Connors was placed on paid administrative leave on Nov. 2 after a seven-hour closed board meeting. Trustees cited an alleged policy violation but didn’t provide details.

Two weeks later, the board reaffirmed its decision to keep Connors on administrative leave at a second closed meeting.

During Connors’ absence, deputy superintendents Marilyn King and Casey Bertram were named co-superintendents.

On Nov. 20, the Chronicle filed a lawsuit in Gallatin County District Court against the school district to try to secure records related to the board’s decision to place Connors on leave.

The lawsuit argues that the public’s right to know exceeds matters of individual privacy included in the documents requested of the district.

No documents have been released, and the suit is still ongoing.

Wednesday’s meeting was scheduled and announced to the public this past Saturday. The only agenda item was considering Connors’ severance package.

Wilson opened the meeting by saying transparency remained a top priority for the district but Montana law also places a high value in an individual’s right to privacy.

“This requires a constant balance to ensure we are transparent in our operations while protecting the privacy and the right of privacy of individuals,” she said.

The severance agreement between the district and Connors includes language acknowledging that the district’s compliance with any court orders to provide documents is not in violation of the agreement.

No members of the public or trustees provided comment during Wednesday’s board meeting.

“The board of trustees intends to preserve the historically strong and open relationship the district has built with the Bozeman community, district voters and the media,” Wilson said.

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Liz Weber can be reached at lweber@dailychronicle.com or 582-2633.