In one of its last acts in power, the conservative majority on a suburban Philadelphia school board voted to grant a $700,000 exit package to the superintendent who backed their priorities.
In the last year, the board of the Central Bucks School District, which is north of Philadelphia, has banned books and prohibited employees from displaying decor “concerning any partisan, political, or social policy issue,” including Pride flags, anti-abortion displays and more.
On Nov. 7, Democrats swept all five Central Bucks school board seats that were up for election in 2023.
Then, on Nov. 15, the six conservatives on Central Bucks’ nine-member board voted to pass an exit package for Superintendent Abram Lucabaugh, whose sudden resignation took effect the following day, according to reporting from the Bucks County Courier Times. The board also voted the same day to ban trans students from playing on sports teams that align with their gender identity.
Now Democrats are hoping to undo the exit package, WHYY and the Associated Press reported.
“People are really sick of the embarrassing meetings, the vitriol, they’re tired of our district being in the news for all the wrong reasons. And … the students are aware of what’s been going on, particularly our LGBTQ students and their friends and allies,” said Karen Smith, a Democrat who won a third term on the board, according to WHYY.
Some of the newly-elected Democratic board members, who won’t take office until December, argue the payout for Lucabaugh violates a Pennsylvania law capping severance pay for superintendents at one year’s salary, plus some payments for benefits.
“The board gave Dr. Lucabaugh a 40 percent salary increase (to $315,000) in late July of this year, making him the second-highest paid school district superintendent in Pennsylvania, and is now using that increase less than four months later to calculate a severance payment,” Brendan Flynn, a lawyer who represents the new board members, wrote in a letter to the board ahead of the vote on the exit package, according to WHYY.
In addition to more than $300,000 for unused leave, $50,000 for taking the exit package and health insurance for the next several months, Lucabaugh’s deal also includes a provision that bars district investigations of his time as superintendent.
Amid the controversy over Lucabaugh’s hasty exit, opponents of the incoming school board are also now claiming without evidence that the Democratic sweep of the Central Bucks school board elections was tainted by fraud.
According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Republican voters filed 15 petitions requesting recounts in Central Bucks school board races as of Nov. 21. The petitioners are not required to present evidence of their claims — just a $50 filing fee. It wasn’t immediately clear when a judge might hear the petitions or if recounts might be ordered ahead of Dec. 4, when the newly-elected board members are scheduled to take office.