Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday has approved the Montgomery County school board's decision to remove Joshua Powell as superintendent.
In a May 11 letter to school board chairwoman Alice Anderson, Holliday also said Powell was entitled to a due process hearing before he was removed.
Holliday said in the letter that the board had "competent and relevant evidence" for removing Powell, and it did not appear that the board had abused its discretion.
Under state law, a superintendent may be removed by a vote of four-fifths of the members of the school board and upon approval of the education commissioner.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Lexington Herald-Leader
The Montgomery board voted unanimously April 9 to remove Powell based on findings in an independent investigation by a Lexington law firm hired by the board.
Holliday's letter said that on May 8, Powell submitted to the Kentucky Department of Education a 65-page document disputing the charges against him and saying he had been denied due process.
Powell's attorney, C. Ed Massey, has said Powell "vehemently" denied the allegations board members cited when they took action against him.
"It is my understanding that Dr. Powell will certainly seek a due-process hearing," Massey said in a statement Thursday. "As for the commissioner's decision, obviously we are disappointed."
Massey said Holliday had not heard Powell's side of the story.
Holliday, meanwhile, encouraged the board and Powell to reach a resolution.
"I fear that a lengthy hearing and prolonged litigation regarding the matter may impose a heavy burden upon the students and community of Montgomery County," Holliday said in the letter.
"My sincere hope is that regardless of the final outcome, the Montgomery County Schools will begin the 2015-16 school year free of these distractions."
The board contended that the hiring of Powell's wife, Anna, as district director of special projects violated Kentucky law and that the district had not taken appropriate steps to address the violation.
Holliday concurred, saying Powell was responsible for the failure to correct the violation, as State Auditor Adam Edelen had recommended.
Holliday did not find that Powell sought to assert improper influence on the site-based decision-making council.
He said, however, that there were "repeated personnel management issues affecting numerous employees and not isolated incidents of disgruntled personnel."
The Montgomery board had valid concerns with Powell's failure to reveal on his employment application a minor misdemeanor conviction from Ohio in 1997, Holliday said.
Academic achievement of students in Montgomery County improved since Powell became superintendent in 2011, but that alone was not cause to reject Powell's removal, Holliday said.
Massey, Powell's attorney, said Thursday that "the tragedy in all of this is the negative publicity and the waste of public money to remove a superintendent who would have been out of the district on June 30 when his contract expired."
"In the end, the community and the students have been harmed more than Dr. Powell," Massey said.
The board suspended Powell in January, and he filed a lawsuit over that suspension.
Massey has told the Herald-Leader that the board's actions regarding the suspension were "unusual and questionably unlawful" and could affect superintendents statewide.