LA MARQUE — Ecomet Burley, the superintendent of the La Marque school district since 2006, is out.
The school board on Thursday accepted Burley’s resignation after a more than three-hour closed-door meeting.
While his resignation isn’t until the end of the school year, he will be on leave the rest of the year to pursue other job opportunities.
The board followed its unanimous vote to accept Burley’s resignation and voted to name Assistant Superintendent Joanie Hudson as interim superintendent.
The embattled superintendent did not attend the meeting Thursday and had been on personal leave since last week. Hudson served in his sted for the board meeting.
Burley’s exit was expected after the board voted last month to issue a letter to his attorney. Many trustees had been seeking a way to oust Burley, some even called on him earlier this year to resign.
They got their wish Thursday night.
When he was hired about six years ago, Burley came in to a district that was already struggling with school enrollment and academic woes.
He set out a five-year plan in which the push was to get the school district to a state exemplary status. One that it never achieved as a district, but saw successes on the elementary school level and saw improved academic performance at other campuses, but never enough to improve the district’s overall ranking.
The financial stress, caused by dropping enrollment and cuts in state funding took their toll.
Burley spent the better part of his last three years battling critics and contending with an often-divided school board.
Burley wasn’t the only resignation. Following the board’s vote, longtime school trustee Joe Cantu tendered his resignation.
Cantu said the board was going in a “different direction now,” and that it was “time for someone else to do what I have been doing for so long.”
Cantu walked out of the board meeting room before the meeting was over, after handing his resignation letter to Board President Annie Burton.
The La Marque school board also voted to terminate the employment of 19 probationary employees as well as layoff five other full-time contract employees as part of its reduction in force measures as it tries to get the district’s financial house in order.
The district is working under a state-ordered financial solvency plan.
The layoffs are effective the end of the school year.
All of the board members expressed regret to having to make the job cuts.
Trustee Shirley Fanuiel said the layoffs were necessary to get the district on a better financial footing.
Trustee Davey Jones, a retired teacher, compared the layoffs to “shooting your favorite hunting dog.”
Trustees also approved going into mediation to settle a federal lawsuit filed by the district’s former police Chief Russel Washington.
Burton was the only one to vote against the mediation, saying the last time the district attempted to mediate its dispute with Washington it was unsuccessful.
Washington was indicted on charges he falsified documents to improperly gain an auto title, but later saw the charges dropped. He sued the district claiming wrongful termination among other things.
Last month a federal judge set aside much of Washington’s lawsuit, but let the main argument stay, paving a way for a possible settlement.
Some on the board are not only pushing to settle with Washington — for what sources said is about $100,000 — but also to rehire Washington.
The board was also supposed to discuss contract renewals for staff as well in an executive session, that was expected to include the none renewal of school district Police Chief Tim Fields' contract, which expires in June.
Just before going into the closed-door session Burton announced that the discussion about contract renewals would be tabled.
The Daily News had argued that if Fields' contract was indeed to be part of that discussion and any subsequent action, that it required a specific agenda posting. There was no specific posting of Fields’ contract on Thursday’s agenda.