Special to Tri County

SOUTH COVENTRY - The Owen J. Roberts School District's business administrator is leaving after 27 years and taking with him a severance package worth at least $445,000.

The school board approved what it termed a "transition resolution" last Monday to allow Business Administrator Denny G. Bolton to leave his job a full year before his current contract expires.

Bolton, 59, will leave the district June 30 "to pursue other interests" even through his contract does not expire until June 30, 2007.

"It just seemed like a logical time for the transition to take place," Bolton said.

Under the terms of the resolution approved by the board, Bolton will be compensated for his one year leave of absence at 100 percent of his current salary of $152,965. Additionally, his health insurance benefits will be extended through June 30, 2012, with no employee contribution.

At the expiration of Bolton's contract on June 30, 2007, he will be credited with 90 vacation days, valued at $52,545 based on a per diem rate, and 410.5 unused sick days, valued at $239,662.

Under the terms of Bolton's employment contract, he may elect to convert the cost of any or all fringe benefits into basic salary or retirement benefits. School officials did not provide an estimate of what the health benefits for Bolton would cost the district.

"We're still reeling from the shock," School Board President Eric Scheib said of Bolton's departure.

The search for Bol-ton's successor will begin immediately, Sch-eib said, and will probably be limited to candidates within Pennsylva-nia who would possess familiarity with state laws and practices.

OJR officials expect Bolton to remain available during the transition period.

Bolton told the board last Monday, "It has been an honor and a privilege to serve as the business administrator for the Owen J. Roberts School District for the past 27 years."

In addition to teaching several courses, Bolton said he plans to engage in "other consulting work."

With the upcoming launch of an $81 million school construction project and recent completion of a new teachers' contract, Bolton said it seemed like "an appropriate time for a transition." He said it makes sense to "bring in somebody at the beginning of the building process."

Scheib singled out Bolton's remarkable financial acumen and credited Bolton's sound judgment and prudent foresight with saving district taxpayers plenty of money over the past 27 years.

"When he came here, the district was in financial disarray," Scheib said, adding that Bolton established budgets and put in place some necessary financial procedures and programs.

OJR Superintendent Myra Forrest, who was hired last April, said Bolton's expertise will be missed.

"Dr. Bolton has been an outstanding business manager for Owen J. Roberts for many years," said Forrest. "He has managed the financial aspects of the district in an exemplary manner."

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