Headlines News

Matter settled

Collier takes over after BOE agrees to McClung contract buyout

Cindy Jackson, left, and Loumeek White, right, were deep in thought prior to Friday’s meeting.


News Staff Writer

To say Friday, December 15, was a red-letter day for Michele Collier might be putting things mildly. Collier began the day as an assistant superintendent and a doctoral candidate. Before the day ended, she was neither.

Collier was named to replace Michele McClung as the county school system’s chief administrator on an interim basis after the Escambia County Board of Education, during a special called meeting in Atmore, set aside its internal struggles and agreed unanimously to honor a request from McClung by purchasing the remainder of her contract and effectively ending her tenure as superintendent of county schools.

Collier was not present at the meeting. Shortly after she was named to replace McClung, she walked across the University of South Alabama College of Education and Professional Studies stage to receive her Doctor of Education Degree in Educational Leadership and Management.

Her family was the first to tie the two events together.

“What an achievement,” reads a Facebook posting by Dr. Collier’s daughter, Melanie Whitman. “Well-deserved recognition for a career devoted to education and the students. She’s an advocate for education and here absolutely for the students. (We’re) super-excited for Michele’s future.”

Newly elected BOE President Loumeek White, who was presiding over his first and second meetings in less than 24 hours, introduced the only item on Friday’s agenda.

“We have received a request from Ms. McClung to buy her contract,” White said. (If approved), she will go on leave effective at 10 a.m. today.”

District 1’s Kevin Hoomes made the motion to fulfill McClung’s request, and District 4’s Cindy Jackson provided a second. Benjamin at first voted against the motion, then changed his vote to make it a unanimous decision after assuring himself that McClung would be paid all the money due to her.

The motion included that the contract payout would be made in a lump sum. It also provided that McClung would have no further duties or responsibilities to the board after 10 a.m. Friday, and that the board would have no further obligations to its former employee.

The outgoing former superintendent has accumulated leave that will keep her on the payroll until January 31, 2024, at which time the lump-sum payment will be made. McClung was reportedly being paid a base salary of $180,000 per year. If that figure is accurate, she will receive $90,000 to settle the contract, which expires June 30.

The three BOE members who had fought to keep McClung — District 2’s Danny Benjamin, District 3’s Mike Edwards, and District 7’s Coleman Wallace — each made a final plea in support of McClung during the panel’s regular meeting, held Thursday afternoon.

“When it was put on the table to extend our superintendent’s contract, it failed for a lack of votes,” Benjamin said. “I hope and pray that when we lay down at night, we can sleep with ourselves if we don’t have this lady at the helm. This is a dark day in Escambia County education if we lose a jewel like Michele McClung and her staff.”

Edwards choked back tears as he praised the former schools chief’s performance, telling her, “Escambia County loves you,” and Wallace praised the establishment of the county’s Pre-K program for 4-year-olds, explaining that, “by the time these kids get to 12th grade, we will have a different community than before that program was implemented.”

Edwards then asked for and led a standing ovation for the soon-to-be former superintendent.

At the end of Friday’s session, Benjamin said he had “limited sleep last night. He added that removing McClung from her position was “almost as if we won the national championship, then fired the coach.”

He added that the board’s action was a “major injustice” and that he was “saddened, in grief, disappointed, all of the above.”

He also noted that “our board is in disarray; if we don’t get it together, our system is going to suffer” and “this is a sad day.”

Other action taken by the board during Thursday’s meeting included:

*Reappointed Broox Garrett and Kirk Garrett as the board’s legal counsel for the 2024 calendar year and agreed to pay a $1,000 retainer.

*Approved a contract with Brainspring for Orton-Gillingham professional development materials. The cost of $21,975 will be paid from Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER 3) funds.

*Approved the retention of Beasley Allen law firm and its co-counsel to pursue litigation on behalf of the BOE against social media companies, including Meta (Facebook and Instagram), YouTube, TikTok and all related entities. There will be no legal fees unless a financial recovery is made.

*Entered into an agreement with PH&J Architects for architectural services related to the Huxford Elementary gymnasium project.

*Tabled for 30 days, as is board protocol, a revision to the board’s instructional program policy.

*Heard from CSFO Rochelle Richardson that the system’s unrestricted bank balance on November 30 was $14,610,258.93, equivalent to 3.44 months of operating expenses.

*Learned from McClung that Alabama Power Co. awarded $7,500 to the county’s alternative school.

*Announced that the board’s next regular meeting would be at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, January 18, at W.S. Neal High School in East Brewton.

The board also approved the following personnel recommendations by the superintendent:

The following abbreviations are used:

Escambia County Board of Education – ECBOE

Rachel Patterson Elementary School – RPES

Escambia County Middle School – ECMS

Escambia County High School – ECHS

Flomaton High School – FHS

Pollard McCall Junior High School – PMJHS

W.S. Neal Elementary School – WSNES

W.S. Neal Middle School –  WSNMS

W.S. Neal High School – WSNHS

Turtle Point Science Center – TPSC


1. Rochelle Richardson, chief school financial officer, ECBOE, effective Feb. 29, 2024

2. Princess Davis, teacher, ECHS, effective Oct. 20, 2023

3. Seth Harwell, teacher, ECMS, effective Jan, 2, 2024

4. Jessica Peterson, teacher, PMJHS, effective Dec. 15, 2023

5. Samantha Pearson, custodian, PMJHS, effective Jan. 5, 2024

6. Justin Weaver, custodian, RPES, effective Dec. 12, 2023

7. Kendra Valenzuela, 6-hour lunchroom worker, RPES, effective Nov. 9, 2023

8. Kelli Kirkland, elementary teacher, WSNES, effective Dec. 15. 2023


1. Amy Bedsole, teacher aide, ECMS, effective Jan.2, 2024, replacing Sandy McMurphy

2. McKenna Gleaton, elementary teacher, WSNES, effective Jan. 2, 2024, replacing Katie Sirmon

3. Anna Knowles, elementary teacher, WSNES, effective Jan. 2, 2024, replacing Ricky Uptagraft

4. Sarah Barnhardt, elementary teacher, WSNES, effective Jan. 2, 2024, replacing Kelli Kirkland

5. Colton Brown, custodian, TPSC, effective Jan. 2, 2024, replacing Randall Lucas

Employment change

1. Whitney Parish, secretary / bookkeeper, PMJHS, to pre-K auxiliary teacher aide, PMJHS, (amended) Nov. 29, 2023, replacing Tasha McFurgerson

Leave of absence

1. Tammy Reaves, special education aide, FHS, effective Aug. 25, 2023 – Nov. 27, 2023

2. Terri Colbert, teacher aide, RPES, effective Sept. 27, 2023 – Dec. 4, 2023

After school employment

All the following are teachers in the after school program.

1. Nikita Pinkney, ECMS, effective Jan. 3, 2024

2. Cassidy Lanier, PMJHS, effective Jan. 9, 2024

3. Heather Kirkland, PMJHS, effective Jan. 9, 2024

4. Deborah Salyers, RPES, effective Jan. 8, 2024

5. Rhecy Currie, RPES, effective Jan. 8, 2024

6. Sandra Davis, RPES, effective Jan. 8, 2024

7. Shannon Martin, RPES, effective Jan. 8, 2024

8. Lauren Kirn, WSNHS, effective Jan. 3, 2024

9. Susan Hardyman, WSNHS, effective Jan. 3, 2024

10. Sandra Barrow, WSNMS, effective Jan. 8, 2024

11. Anne Catherine Campbell, WSNMS, effective Jan. 8, 2024

12. Ashley Gafford, WSNMS, effective Jan. 8, 2024

13. Casee Phillips, WSNMS, effective Jan. 8, 2024