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Many questions left after Pugh’s departure

Dear Editor,

In 2010, NBC DFW News in Fort Worth, Texas reported: “The superintendent of the Eagle Mountain-Saginaw district left with a $181,000 check after his abrupt resignation, NBC DFW has learned. The information was uncovered in a voluntary separation agreement marked ‘confidential’ that was obtained using the Texas Public Information Act. The check was part of a severance package agreed upon by Cole Pugh and the district.” (The article is still available online. Google “Cole Pugh Texas” to read the entire article.)

On Aug. 17, The LaGrange Daily News reported that the local school board “agreed to pay Pugh $152,891.00, which was the remaining salary for one year of his contract.”

In both cases, Pugh abruptly resigned, offering no reason or explanation, and school officials didn’t give a reason, citing confidentiality.

So, in less than 10 years, Pugh has pocketed $333,891 in unearned taxpayer dollars — and his reasons for being gifted more than a quarter-million dollars in public funds intended for our children’s education have not been explained. Is this standard practice?

The LaGrange Daily News quoted two local school board members saying they couldn’t speak about Pugh’s reason for resignation because it was a confidential personnel issue.

The LaGrange Daily News also requested Pugh’s evaluation records, but the request was denied because the personnel file is confidential.

We may not be able to get Pugh’s personnel file through an open records request, but we deserve to know why he was rewarded with $152,891 for his abrupt resignation three days into a new school year.

This is now a pattern, folks — a pattern shrouded in secrecy that has cost taxpayers $333,891.

I encourage The LaGrange Daily News, other local media organizations and any concerned citizens to get creative with future open records requests.

For example, the personnel file may be off limits, but emails are not.

An open records request for all school system emails containing the words “Pugh” and “resignation” over the past couple of weeks might shed some light on this dark, malodorous situation.

My son is in the first grade, and he can’t wait to start using a Chromebook like the older students. The $333,891 in public education funding gifted to Pugh could have purchased 729 additional Chromebooks, or 151,769 school lunches or 6,677,820 pencils. Maybe Pugh deserves all that money. Who knows? We certainly don’t.

Scott Smith

LaGrange