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Bartlett faced crisis in confidence in Va. post

October 17, 1997

By DAVE McMILLION

Staff Writer

Before the Washington County Board of Education hired him on Wednesday, Herman G. Bartlett Jr. was having a hard time getting a vote of confidence from a school board.

The Montgomery County, Va., Board of Education voted three times against extending or renewing his contract in recent years, but members of the Washington County Board of Education said they were unaware of the votes.

"We didn't care how they voted," said local Board of Education President B. Marie Byers, who voted with the rest of the board Wednesday to give Bartlett the $105,000 a year superintendent's job here.

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Montgomery County Board of Education members declined to discuss the reasons for not extending and renewing Bartlett's contract, but controversy had marked much of his tenure there.

Bartlett's style was described as brash and intimidating in newspaper stories and telephone interviews with officials at the 9,000-student school district southwest of Roanoke, Va. The president of the local teachers association described Bartlett as a "top-down, I'll tell-you-what-to-do, Hitler-type, commander in chief."

Superintendents begin work in Virginia with a three-year contract, and school boards annually have the ability to increase the length of the contracts by a year.

Bartlett, who takes the helm of the local school district Nov. 3, started his superintendent's job in Montgomery County in 1993, and at the end of the year, the board voted to extend his contract another year, said Annette Perkins, chairwoman of the Montgomery County Board of Education.

But at the end of his second year, the Board of Education voted not to extend Bartlett's contract, and last year they voted again not to extend it, said Perkins.

In another vote last October, the board voted 8-1 not to renew his contract, board members said.

Bartlett gave a slightly different description of the string of events, but he agreed the board voted three times not to extend or renew his contract.

Bartlett reacted to the Montgomery County controversy this week by saying that change doesn't always please everybody. Bartlett is credited with improving test scores in Virginia schools where he worked, putting together comprehensive building programs in Montgomery County and making the district one of the most technologically advanced in the state.

"I think the record speaks for the job I did," Bartlett said.

Frank Barham, executive director of the Virginia School Boards Association, said he recommended to Bartlett that he reject any offer to take a contract extension so he could be eligible for retirement.

Bartlett said he took retirement, which will pay him 41 percent of the $89,300 salary he earned in Montgomery County. Bartlett said he will begin receiving the $36,613 from his retirement when he turns 55.

Bartlett, who is now 53, will be paid $105,000 as Washington County Superintendent, $14,800 more than his predecessor Wayne F. Gersen.

Local Board of Education members, who were having a luncheon with Bartlett at the Four Points Hotel Thursday, were not worried about Bartlett's past with Montgomery County school officials. Board members said they paid a consultant $4,800 to do reference checks and help direct them through the search process.

"They're different people. They're a different community," said board member Doris J. Nipps, who accused The Herald-Mail of trying to dig up "dirty stories" about the search.

Although Bartlett is not working on a probationary period, he will have a series of evaluations, board members said.

Wednesday, Bartlett was named acting superintendent through June 30, at which time he will start a four-year contract as superintendent.

Interim Superintendent Linda Barkdoll headed the system while the board conducted its search. It is not known where Barkdoll will go when Bartlett takes over, school board members said.

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