Fromberg superintendent resigns with deal from board

2012-04-19T23:45:00Z 2014-08-25T07:26:22Z Fromberg superintendent resigns with deal from boardBy ROB ROGERS rrogers@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

The Fromberg School board has voted to drop official complaints against its superintendent in return for his resignation.

Gary Scott, the embattled superintendent of Fromberg Public Schools, accepted the deal during a special board meeting Wednesday night.

Technically, he’ll be suspended with pay for the rest of the school year and then leave the district in June. He’ll continue to have health benefits for an additional year.

Both Scott and board Chairman Jerry Paugh took calls early Thursday but asked to speak later in the day to discuss the situation. However, by the end of the day neither Scott nor Paugh was returning phone calls.

Scott was accused of making inappropriate comments to students and staff members, and of abusing his position of authority. In January, the board held a closed meeting to hear testimony from two women and a student against Scott.

The board then voted to place Scott on paid administrative leave and launch an investigation into the complaints.

The investigator’s report was delivered to the board in March and it found that Scott probably made some inappropriate comments but that he didn’t break the law.

“She came up with nothing,” Scott said last month of investigator Heather Sather. “I’ve never seen a stranger, weaker case on anyone.”

In the report, Sather found that Scott made comments about a student’s body and good looks in a meeting she had requested to talk about her concerns with math and her math teacher.

Scott has worked in education for more than four decades. Early in his career, he worked in Idaho and later moved to Montana, working in schools in Lame Deer, Huntley and Hysham.

On top of the allegations investigated by the board, Trustee Mike Creeden presented another round of complaints about Scott’s leadership style and his handling of the public.

“Any of those (complaints) individually wouldn’t have been enough” to terminate Scott, Creeden said on Wednesday. “But together they would have been.”

Creeden, a history teacher at Roberts School and a U.S. Army National Guard veteran, offered his own resignation from the five-person board in an effort to get Scott to agree to step down.

With Scott agreeing to leave, Creeden will step down at the end of the school year.

The dispute over Scott’s leadership style led to a sharp divide in the community and on the board. Paugh generally supported Scott but often found himself in the minority facing three trustees who were eager to see Scott leave.

Likewise, some in the community rallied to Scott’s support while others lobbied to have him dismissed.

Board meetings were tense. During a meeting in December, a town resident made a complaint about Scott that resulted in Scott approaching the man, standing face-to-face with him. Jeff Weldon, the district’s lawyer, had to quickly get up and separate the two.

At one point a dispute between Scott and Creeden grew so intense that the board meeting they were attending was abruptly adjourned.

With the two men no longer serving the district, Creeden is hopeful tensions will calm and the district and community will begin to heal.

“When it comes down to it, things will work out,” Creeden said.

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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