Mystery surrounds departure of Lee County schools superintendent

WINK | By  Emma Heaton |

The Lee County School District is facing a mystery surrounding the sudden departure of Superintendent Dr. Christopher Bernier.

The board recently voted to accept a separation agreement with Bernier, but no official reason has been given for his exit.

Under the terms of the agreement, Bernier will cease to function as superintendent of schools on Tuesday and will continue to receive his current salary of well over $200,000 for 20 weeks thereafter.

Despite the agreement, questions remain about the circumstances of Bernier’s departure.

The district will not comment on his whereabouts and board members have been tight-lipped.

During a public comment portion of a special meeting on Tuesday, concerns were raised about the lack of transparency surrounding the decision and the continued payment of Bernier’s salary.

The Board Responds

Some members of the public have called for answers from the board, questioning why Bernier continues to be paid if he is longer serving as superintendent.

The board responded to some questions we had, but would not offer many details.

Asked if he was under any kind of investigation or whether they knew why he left or where he may be, they replied, “Dr. Bernier is no longer an employee and therefore there is no information I can provide.”

Asked why he is still being paid, they responded, “The superintendent’s separation agreement is negotiated with and approved by the School Board of Lee County.”

An Interim Appointed

Tuesday, the board voted 6-0 to officially enter into a contract with Dr. Kenneth Savage as the Interim Superintendent.

Savage has served as interim superintendent before.

Before that he served the district for 18 years as an assistant principal, principal, district administrator and a state executive.

The board said it has full confidence in Savage to lead the district a second time.

He is a long-time resident and his children are in the school system.

“The work for me is not just professional,” Savage said. “It’s personal.”

Savage will serve as interim superintendent for the next seven months and will be paid a salary of over $200,000.

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