College Station Superintendent Jimmy Creel's resignation was accepted by the school board Thursday night. Though his last day won't be until August 31, Creel will remain on paid administrative leave, meaning his tenure here is over.
That also means Creel's term will have lasted exactly one year.
At the third special school board meeting in the past month, the school board unanimously accepted the resignation of Creel and the exit agreement that attorneys for both sides recently agreed on.
As part of the deal, Creel will receive just over $140,000 from the remaining months on his contract, one which ran until August 2008. Also, $5,000 will go into his retirement fund. Both sides agreed not to take legal action against the other so far as this issue goes.
"I guess I would say, in all honesty, you figure out what you're made of in difficult times, not when things are easy," said Tim Jones, CSISD's school board president. "We have bonded more as a board, come to understand each other in a greatly more significant way."
Creel was out of town Thursday, but spoke via cell phone. "I came here with the intention to stay a long time, so I'm disappointed to say the least," he said.
"I think this board is made up of good people who have good intentions, and they mean well," he added, "and the fact that I was a little different may have contributed to their perception that my leadership was not what they expected."
Creel also issued a statement, saying there was high performance in the classroom and indicators of success in the district, but that the board didn't find what they were looking for in him.
(Creel's full statement, as well as a statement from the school board, is at the end of this article.)
The school board has not begun discussions on the search for a new superintendent. They recently named Deputy Superintendent Eddie Coulson as acting superintendent.
30 Days of Drama
It is an unexpected summer saga that began when the school board posted an agenda for a special meeting for May 30, one for which the agenda stated the board would examine "performance evaluation, contract, and possible leave of absence" for Creel.
It was at that meeting that the board unanimously approved a job evaluation done that night on Creel, then placed him on temporary paid administrative leave, with no time table given for further action.
"Difficult day, difficult day, one that we don't enjoy much at all," said Jones that night. "Certainly not anything that I believe any of us have worked through before, so it's fairly unique for us."
Creel also responded that night, saying "I think I would be remiss and lying if I didn't say it surprises me. It does surprise me somewhat, but the board has a right to judge a superintendent's performance, and whether I agree with that or not, it's their right and I respect it."
Creel added that there was a steep learning curve that he faced upon arriving in College Station. His first day on the job was September 1, after the school year had begun.
But it was three school board members who said Creel's leadership was a major factor in their decision to place him on leave. The statements came in an article in The Bryan-College Station Eagle's June 1 edition. The attorney for Creel, Neal Adams, said those statements violated state statutes because anything relating to Creel's contract or performance is confidential. Nothing further has been heard on those complaints, and likely, no action will be taken as a result of the exit agreement stating no legal action will be sought.
The school board next scheduled a meeting for June 13, and named Coulson as the acting superintendent. He is now in his tenth year with the school district, and was widely considered a top candidate for CSISD's top spot when longtime super Steve Johnson retired.
"I will look forward to leading the school district," Coulson said at the time. "We have a lot of great people in CSISD, and we have a lot of work to be done."
Also that night, Jones said, "This is not a position we want to reside in very long. We're continuing to consider options and what our proper course of action would be."
In fact, attorneys for Creel and the district had been working on an exit deal throughout that period.
Still no action was taken on Creel at the regularly scheduled school board meeting June 20. Coulson was given a monthly $2,000 stipend for his duties.
But Monday, Creel confirmed to News 3 that his and the district's attorneys had come to an agreement in principle for his departure as superintendent.
Last June, Creel was chosen to replace Johnson because of his experience as the deputy superintendent of schools in Katy, a district much larger than College Station, with more than 45,000 students and 44 schools, including six high schools. He also was superintendent in the Port Neches-Groves district.
Creel called his return to Aggieland a homecoming, as he is a 1974 graduate of Texas A&M.
"When you look at the high performance culture of this school district, you can bet there are some great people that are responsible for that," he said at the time of his announced hiring. "I'm looking forward to having the opportunity to join them, learn from them and to work with them."
Verbatim Statement from Jimmy Creel
"I am sorry that it has become necessary for me to leave College Station ISD. I came to College Station ISD on September 1, 2005 with 31 years of exemplary service to education. I immediately began doing the things in this district that have proved successful in four other districts for whom I have worked. I documented more than 75 personal visits to classrooms and to campuses during my first nine months on the job. I met personally with every administrator in the district at the principal level or above and I began the long process of building relationships with employees, parents, and the community. I also met privately with each board member on at least two occasions in addition to our many meetings as a group. I listened to those who wished to share opinions and I worked diligently to establish lines of communication with all constituents of the district. I spoke to civic organizations, neighborhood groups, and professional organizations whenever I was given the opportunity.
"Despite high performance as verified by district test scores, improvement in areas of concern from last year, and general indicators of success throughout the district, the board determined at some point in time during my nine-month tenure that my leadership style did not match their expectations and their perceptions of the leader of CSISD and, at some point, determined that they wished to change the leadership. While I deeply regret the board’s conclusions and decision, I respect them as good people who are working diligently to serve the community in a positive manner. In order to accommodate their desire to facilitate a change in leadership, my attorney and I have worked with the board and their attorney to establish an exit agreement that provides me and my family some compensation for our commitment to this district and holds the board at least partially accountable for the provisions of the contract that they offered me less than one year ago. Certainly, I would prefer to have had the opportunity to lead this district for many years or at least to have had a reasonable opportunity to demonstrate my skills and abilities. However, given the current circumstances, I believe that the Exit Strategy upon which we have agreed accomplishes the goal of accommodating the board’s desire in a reasonable manner.
"This district is blessed with many dedicated outstanding educators who will continue to make a difference for kids regardless of who the superintendent may be. I expect this district to continue to move forward in providing a quality education for the students of College Station ISD and I wish the very best for the staff and students of CSISD. I wish the board well and I trust that they will be successful in identifying that individual whom they deem to be a perfect match for the district as their next superintendent."
Verbatim Statement from CSISD's School Board
"At the earliest moments of our discussions and relationship with Dr. Creel we noted the success the district had enjoyed for several years. In addition we talked about the fact that we were looking for an individual with the initiative to take the district to the next level.
"We let him know of our happiness with our district leadership team and the fact that morale was at an all time high.
"We have regularly communicated the importance of positive visionary leadership while also maintaining and in fact improving on successful programs and initiatives that had been implemented.
"Unfortunately we have concluded over the past school year that there is not a fit with this professional relationship and is not likely that a successful one will ultimately be established. We believe our prompt action will give us the best opportunity to regain our positive momentum and maintain the performance our community has come to expect from CSISD.
"We would like to state for the record that there is no question as to Dr. Creel's integrity or character.
"We wish Dr. Creel success in his future endeavors."