Education

The Nashville superintendent got a retirement bonus. That’s rare in the metro-east.

Community has questions as superintendent retires in September

On Tuesday, Sept. 26, the Nashville District 99 School Board accepted Nashville Community High School Superintendent Ernie Fowler's retirement, which is effective the same month.
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On Tuesday, Sept. 26, the Nashville District 99 School Board accepted Nashville Community High School Superintendent Ernie Fowler's retirement, which is effective the same month.

Nashville High School’s former superintendent isn’t the only administrator to leave his district with a retirement bonus in recent years.

Former Nashville District 99 superintendent Ernie Fowler received a $63,540 bonus when he retired on Sept. 26 after calls for his removal.

The News-Democrat sought final contracts for eight more superintendents who retired from local school districts since 2014, including Fowler’s predecessor, through Freedom of Information Act requests.

The other administrators to receive bonuses were both in Belleville: former Signal Hill District 181 superintendent Suzette Lambert and former Belle Valley District 119 superintendent Louis Obernuefemann.

Lambert received a $2,100 bonus when she retired in 2016.

Under Lambert’s contract, if she would have left the district before her agreement expired, she would have been required to pay the school board up to $5,000. The money would have been used toward the search for a new superintendent, her contract states.

Obernuefemann was paid a $10,000 bonus over his last three years with the district. But his contract stated that he would only receive that bonus if he worked in the district for at least 15 years. By the time he retired June 30, he had worked as superintendent for seven years and taught for 11 years.

Fowler worked in Nashville for two years. He had two years left in his employment contract with the district.

Fowler’s bonus was paid, in part, “in consideration for his immediate and unconditional resignation,” according to his retirement agreement with the district. His retirement was effective on the day he became eligible to retire: his 56th birthday.

The agreement stated that Fowler left “due to personal and family related reasons.”

Nashville Community High School Superintendent Ernie Fowler writes a weekly column for the local newspaper, The Nashville News. This week, he wrote a column before a girls volleyball game in which he recounts playing volleyball in high school. Som

About a month before he retired, Fowler wrote a column for a local newspaper that received some backlash. He recalled an experience from his high school P.E. class and described a peer’s “well-developed assets which were hidden under a T-shirt with the word ‘bullets’ sprawled across the front.”

Fowler later issued an apology. But the teachers union called for his resignation or removal over the column. The teachers also asked the school board to take action against Fowler in May.

Nashville school board members defended Fowler in a statement in May and expressed gratitude to the superintendent in another statement when he retired.

“The board wants to thank Mr. Fowler for his service to District 99 since 2015,” they stated. “We wish him well in his retirement.”

They didn’t respond to a request for further comment about his bonus.

The following retired superintendents’ final contracts did not include bonuses:

▪  James Helton, who retired from Waterloo Unit 5 in 2014.

▪  Raelynn Parks, who retired from Brooklyn Unit 188 in 2014.

▪  Wendy Davis, who retired from Nashville District 99 in 2015.

▪  Ed Hightower, who retired from Edwardsville Unit 7 in 2015.

▪  Henrietta Young, who retired from Brooklyn Unit 188 in 2017.

The BND also requested former superintendent Evelyn Kelly’s contract from Madison Unit 12. FOIA Officer Warletta Brookins, the current superintendent, didn’t respond to the request by press time. Kelly retired in 2015.

Lexi Cortes: 618-239-2528, @lexicortes

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