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Shepherd bond

Superintendent Scott Carter looks over a building the district has abandoned due to a crumbling foundation and mold. Carter was placed on paid leave by the district last week after a violation of policy related to alcohol use.

The Shepherd School Board terminated its superintendent Thursday evening, a month after he took a breath alcohol test at school and blew almost three times over the legal limit.

On Aug. 22 at 10 a.m., Scott Carter blew .227 after colleagues reported smelling alcohol on his breath, school board chair Carl Openshaw said at Carter's termination hearing Thursday. Carter was placed on paid leave after the incident. Neither Carter nor any legal representation on his behalf were present.

Openshaw said that Carter had been drinking between the hours of 3 a.m. and 5 a.m. that morning.

“I recommend that his employment be terminated,” Openshaw said. “He was dishonest with me about his drinking, and I feel like we can no longer trust him to perform his duties.”

The Aug. 22 incident wasn't the first time colleagues had suspected Carter was under the influence, Openshaw said Thursday.

The board voted unanimously to terminate Carter immediately. That vote came three weeks after the board first voted to terminate. After that first vote Aug. 29, a termination hearing was scheduled, at which Carter could have appealed the decision.

In voting to terminate, the board cited three Shepherd School District #37 policies Carter violated:

  • District policy 5223 outlines rules of conduct. "Employees are expected to maintain high standards of honesty, integrity and impartiality in the conduct of District business," the policy states. The policy also states that if there are reasons to believe that the employee may be under the influence of drugs or alcohol and are impaired, or if there is clear evidence of drug or alcohol use on the job, the employee will be subject to discipline.
  • District Policy 5226 outlines employees prohibited from manufacturing, dispensing, distributing, possessing, using or under the influence of a controlled substance at a drug- and alcohol-free workplace.
  • District Policy 5228 references urine drug testing and breath alcohol testing.

Shepherd resident Natasha Zabel attended the termination hearing and has six kids in the Shepherd School District.

“I feel betrayed because he was such a positive voice for our community and what our school needed and for students," she said. "And to then find out he’s not the example he thought he was, it’s kind of disappointing.”

She’s excited that the $11.9 million bond to improve the schools gained voter approval Sept. 10.

“We worked side-by-side with him going door-to-door,” she said. “It’s just disappointing.”

Carter was placed on paid leave in late August over allegations he violated district policy, and he described the incident in a letter published Sunday, Aug. 25, on the Shepherd School District website. He explained that he drank Wednesday night and early Thursday morning.

He wrote in the letter that he underwent a few days of intensive treatment.

In his letter, Carter denied ever consuming alcohol at work during his “25-plus year career” and asks for forgiveness from the Shepherd community. He said he will accept “any sanctions the Board chooses to place on me.”

Afterward, school trustees appointed district curriculum coordinator Drea O'Donnell as interim superintendent, while also floating ideas like seeking out retired superintendents to step in as a sub.

Openshaw said Aug. 29 that the school district will start a recruitment process for a new superintendent. O’Donnell will be the superintendent for the remainder of the school year.

“I think the board’s plan is to open up the position to anybody who’s interested,” Openshaw said. “Right now we haven’t even discussed full-time positions.”

This isn't the first time alcohol has affected Carter's employment. In 2010, Carter resigned from a school district in Kansas following his arrest for driving under the influence in 2009, according to an Associated Press report.

In his letter, Carter described drinking Wednesday night, Aug. 21, and early Thursday morning, Aug. 22, before going to bed and arriving for work at his normal time. Students in kindergarten through sixth grade and ninth grade resumed classes at Shepherd Wednesday. The remainder of students began class that Thursday.

“While I was doing my regular rounds of the building, talking with staff, someone I was talking with thought they smelled alcohol,” Carter wrote. “As it turns out, I did have alcohol on my breath from the night before.”

Since then Carter said he had gone through intensive treatment and continues to work with doctors and counselors for ongoing treatment.

“I came to the realization that I had a bigger problem than myself and immediately sought treatment and counseling,” Carter wrote. “My Family and I love Shepherd. I hope the community can find it in its collective heart to forgive me. Make no mistake, I am not blaming any one nor any thing, just myself. I will accept any sanctions the Board chooses to place on me. I am sorry for my poor choice, and pray that I am allowed to continue leading what we have begun together.”

Carter was hired to be the superintendent in February 2017, after working for three years at the Queets Clearwater School District in Forks, Washington.

Despite the absence of the superintendent, Shepherd passed an $11.9 million bond Tuesday, Sept. 10. The bond will fund a building project Carter previously told The Gazette would accommodate enrollment growth for the next 20 years.

The school district is represented by Felt, Martin, Frazier & Weldon PC.

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