In exchange for his voluntary resignation, Dr. Sean Alford, the former Aiken County Public Schools superintendent, secured a significant payout as well as a host of beneficial agreements between him and the school district he once oversaw, according to a mutual separation document obtained by the Aiken Standard via legal request.
Alford, according to the arrangement, was set to receive a lump sum payment of $222,834 eight days after the agreement was executed. The document is dated Sept. 6 and is signed by the former superintendent, current Aiken County School Board Chairman Keith Liner and two dedicated witnesses.
Alford would also be compensated for a maximum 45 unused vacations days and any unused sick leave. The district promised to make an $18,255.01 payment into the retirement system.
Meantime, the Aiken County School Board and Alford collectively agreed not to make "disparaging comments publicly" about one another, or the public school district, according to the agreement, which is a little more than one page long.
The former superintendent also pledged to "work cooperatively and constructively" with the board, the interim superintendent and district staff.
As for Alford's future references, the district agreed to use his most recent evaluation letter, dated Oct. 30, 2018. The summarizing letter was written by former Aiken County School Board Chairman Levi Green and thanked Alford for "a job well done" as well as an overall "excellent performance."
"You have raised the bar on the perception of public education in Aiken County," reads the evaluation letter, written before elections last November in which Green lost to Jason Crane.
Alford officially left his post Sept. 13. The Aiken County School Board voted, not unanimously, to accept his resignation the week prior. Three school board members have since resigned.
Liner, the current chairman, in a Wednesday statement said an amicable solution was found, adding Alford was seeking opportunities elsewhere.
Alford's attorney told The Post and Courier (the Aiken Standard is owned by the same company) any allegations levied against his client were just that – allegations. The separation agreement includes a note that it is not an admission of wrongdoing of any sort.
"The board appreciates and acknowledges his excellent leadership and performance during his time as superintendent of Aiken County Public Schools," Liner said in his statement.
Alford's departure – roughly four years since he was first hired – has proven controversial in Aiken County. Some have cheered his leave; others, not so much.
A group of 12 Aiken-area officials and community leaders in a Sept. 13 letter pressed S.C. Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman to investigate the situation and potential conflicts of interest. Among those 12 signatories are Ahmed Samaha and Tad Barber, two of the now-resigned school board members.
A spokesperson for the state Education Department told the Aiken Standard such matters are "taken seriously." The request was referred to the department's general counsel office.
An October 2018 amendment to Alford's contract extended his stay through June 2022. The same amendment document listed his annual salary as $195,033.
It is believed Alford did not submit a resignation letter. No such letter could be located after the Aiken Standard requested it, according to Merry Glenne Piccolino, the communications director for the public school district.
Donald Gist, Alford's attorney, on Thursday afternoon said Alford is "extremely satisfied" with the deal reached.
Staff writer Larry Wood contributed to this report.