As its final action Tuesday, the Republican-majority Central Bucks School Board approved a $712,000-separation agreement with now-former superintendent Abram Lucabaugh.
The controversial severance deal passed by a party line 6-3 vote following an often contentious meeting that drew hundreds of vocal residents to Central Bucks West High School.
Lucabaugh did not attend the meeting, the last before a new Democratic-majority takes the reins in December.
For about 90 minutes, area residents expressed outrage at the severance deal, saying it “pardons and enriches a failed leader,” while others applauded Lucabaugh’s contributions to the district, calling him a “champion” and “top educator.”
Several people decried the settlement, noting the many services and salaries of other district employees, from bus drivers to support staff that could benefit from the taxpayer money.
“There is not a person who deserves this less,” said one audience member.
Beth Darcy, a former school board member, called her vote in 2018 to promote Lucabaugh to an administrative position her “biggest mistake.” She said although she was aware of accusations surrounding him, she thought he “deserved a second chance.”
“He’s quitting to avoid responsibility and accountability at the expense of every taxpayer,” Darcy added. She did not elaborate on the accusations.
Tracy Suits, also a former school board member, called the board’s actions a “revenge agenda.” The outgoing directors, she said, “will be held accountable.”
Those supporting Lucabaugh spoke about the “harassment” he and the majority board members have “endured.”
“You know you are the ones who were helpful,” said Vonna DeArmond, a strong supporter of the GOP-majority directors. “You don’t deserve to go. You certainly all deserve a medal for a race well run.”
DeArmond’s attempt to encourage parents unhappy with the district to homeschool their children was met with laughter and heckling.
“You are the problem in this community,” she said to the audience. “You are exposing yourselves as the hateful bullies.”
Many applauded her remarks.
After the meeting, Mariann Davies, of Doylestown Township, said she hopes the new board “stays true to its mission. It’s inheriting an excellent district. It can only go down from here.”
Following the vote, where there appeared to be no second to the motion, board president Dana Hunter, closed her laptop and abruptly adjourned the nearly three-hour long meeting, as audience members shouted “I oppose.”
Just prior to the vote, Hunter, who said she “deeply respects” Lucabaugh, said the soon-to-be Democratic majority board planned to immediately fire Lucabaugh, costing taxpayers more. According to Hunter, who lost her reelection bid, the Democrats shared their intentions with union representatives.
Included in the approved package, Lucabaugh will receive an additional $10,000 consulting fee for services through Nov. 30. A $50,000-settlement payment is also part of his agreement.
While the severance calls for Lucabaugh to be paid within 14 days, board member Tabitha Dell’Angelo, directed the district’s CEO Tara Houser, “Do not cut any checks for at least 14 days.”
When Dell’Angelo asked Houser if the district had that money, the CEO said, she had not received the agreement until 6:45 p.m. Monday and could not answer the question.
Turning to the district’s long-serving counsel, Jeff Garton, Dell’Angelo asked if he believed the agreement complied with Pennsylvania statutes. Garton, who announced his resignation Monday night, said he did not receive the document until Tuesday morning and had not done an analysis.
Dell’Angelo also posed questions about whether the hundreds of thousands of dollars being paid Lucabaugh for unused sick and vacation time were from the contract he signed in July or from his previous contract.
“This is a very insulting contract to taxpayers,” said Dell’Angelo, who chose not to run for re-election.
Additionally, the severance agreement states that the superintendent is “held harmless” from “any and all demands, claims, lawsuits, actions and legal proceedings brought against him (Lucabaugh) in his individual capacity and/or in his official capacity as permitted by Pennsylvania law.
This matter concerned many in the audience, including Antonetta Stancu, an attorney representing Tohickon Middle School principal Kevin Marton. Marton was arrested following a domestic dispute with his estranged wife in August and is on administrative leave.
“We know there is negative documentation…with negative impact on his (Lucabaugh) work,” said Stancu, who received a round of applause when she urged the board not to approve the severance.
A letter to the school directors from the Doylestown-based law firm Curtin & Heefner LLP said the agreement is “immediately void and unenforceable in its entirety.” According to the firm, case law has repeatedly found in Pennsylvania that it “improperly” commits the new board.
School board member Dr. Miriam Mahmud called the severance “a complete violation of our fiduciary responsibility. This has never been about education. This has never been about the kids. It’s unfair to all the taxpayers. It’s completely wrong.”
The new school board convenes Dec. 4.