Former Lexington 2 school superintendent paid $240,000 to quit

Lexington School District 2 Logo

Lexington School District 2 Logo

The former superintendent of a Midlands school district will be paid nearly a quarter of a million dollars by the district to end his contract nearly a year early.

A settlement agreement between Lexington 2 and Superintendent Nicholas Wade, provided to the state, requires the district to pay Wade $240,000 as part of his resignation from the top job at the end of the 2021 school year– 22. The money will be paid in 24 monthly installments starting in July.

The district will also pay Wade’s attorney fees to the tune of $10,000, according to the settlement.

As part of the settlement, Wade agrees to “unconditionally release, acquit and discharge” any claims against the District, and the District will release any claims it may have against him.

Wade also agrees “to cooperate with the board and the district regarding any disputes arising out of events that occurred during his tenure as superintendent.” The district agrees to reimburse the former superintendent for all expenses he incurs for his cooperation, such as travel to and from the district.

Wade had only been in the Cayce-West Columbia School District for a year, having been hired as “superintendent-elect” to replace outgoing superintendent Bill James ahead of the 2020-21 school year. Wade still had a full year left on his contract, which paid him an annual base salary of $180,000, when he suddenly resigned from Lexington 2 last month.

The Lexington 2 School Board called a special meeting for May 11 — a day after a scheduled meeting — to approve Wade’s resignation and appoint former superintendent Barry Bolen as the acting replacement. No reason was given at the time for Wade’s departure, and the agreement between Wade and the board stipulated that Wade would use his accumulated vacation and sick leave to take time off work between May 13 and the June 30, the date on which his resignation takes effect.

On June 2, the school board hired a permanent replacement as superintendent. Brenda Hafner, currently Chief of Schools for Sumter County, will take over at Lexington 2 starting July 1.

It later emerged that grades issued to senior Lexington 2 graduates in 2021 and 2022 were being audited after the SC Department of Education reported a case where the department believed a graduating student was n had not earned enough course credits to be awarded a degree. The student in this case had received failing grades in four required courses, but was approved for graduation after a brief stint in a summer course, the department found.

There is no indication that Wade’s resignation is related to the Department of Education audit.

The settlement between Wade and the school board requires that both parties make no “negative or derogatory statements” about each other, and anyone who violates this clause would be required to pay the other party $20,000. The agreement also requires school board president Christina Rucker to write a letter of recommendation for Wade.

Similar language was included in a settlement reached between former Superintendent Christina Melton and the Lexington-Richland 5 School Board last year, when Melton agreed to resign and accept a $226,000 payment to end the his contract earlier. This deal has been criticized for not being publicly disclosed or endorsed prior to Melton’s resignation, leading to questions whether it had been legally passed.

After The State Media Co. filed a lawsuit challenging the board’s handling of Melton’s severance deal privately, the board approved it in a public vote.

Bristow Marchant covers local government, schools and the Lexington County community for the state. He graduated from the College of Charleston in 2007. He has over 10 years of experience covering South Carolina at the Clinton Chronicle, Sumter Item and Rock Hill Herald. He joined The State in 2016. Bristow won the 2015 SC Press Association Award for Best Series and was part of The State’s award-winning 2016 election coverage.
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