Lake Norman Charter managing director resigns
by Staff Writer
HUNTERSVILLE – Tim Riemer has resigned as managing director of Lake Norman Charter School, according to Tricia Sisson, chairwoman of the school’s board of directors.
Riemer’s resignation took effect Tuesday, Aug. 16, one day before classes began for the 2010-11 school year. Riemer did not respond to the Herald’s email request for comment.
“The board of directors of Lake Norman Charter thanked Mr. Riemer for his three years of service to the school and recognizes much has been accomplished under his leadership,” Sisson wrote in a short emailed statement.
While the board begins a search process for Riemer’s replacement, High School Principal Shannon Stein and Middle School Principal Michelle Harrison will manage daily operations of the K-12 school, Sisson wrote.
For the past several years, Lake Norman Charter the state has rated as a School of Excellence, the highest designation given by the state. But while students have flourished at the school, former and current teachers and some parents have told the Herald Weekly of oppressive school leadership.
Much of that came to a head in the 2010-11 school year, as Riemer became a lightning rod for criticism.
Riemer fired the school’s basketball coach after parents of a student complained that their son was bullied in the school gym. Police investigated the complaint and found no grounds for a criminal charge. Shortly afterward, Riemer sent an email to all parents saying the school would not tolerate bullying of students.
A Herald article about that email prompted a number of former teachers to write that Riemer was a bully himself and had shown callousness in firing a number of teachers. They also said Riemer had generally intimidated employees and parents alike and created an atmosphere of fear at the school.
Two weeks ago, multiple sources told the Herald that Riemer was leaving the school. Asked about Riemer’s status, Sisson replied in two emails:
• “Mr. Riemer is currently employed with Lake Norman Charter School. There are no dismissal records to disclose to the public.”
• “There is no change in status.”
Sisson refused at the time to say if Riemer would remain as managing director when fall classes began and refused to disclose Riemer’s salary and whether the board had given him any severance package.
Finally, on Aug. 10, Sisson issued a statement confirming Riemer’s resignation, but she again did not respond to requests for Riemer’s salary and compensation package.
Linda Fuller, a spokeswoman for the N.C. Department of Public Instruction, confirmed that all salaries of Lake Norman Charter employees are a public record, since most of the school $10.5 million budget comes from taxpayers. Charter schools are not required to report employee salaries to the state, but Fuller said a state official had called Stein, the high school principal, to talk to her about disclosing salary information.
“The school has been reminded that all employee salaries at charter schools are a public record,” Fuller said. “People often feel that should be a private issue, but they give up that right when the public pays their salary.”
Stein never responded to phone messages or an email from the Herald. On Wednesday morning, Aug. 17, Sisson emailed a copy of the school’s 2009-10 income tax return. That return shows that as of June 30, 2010, the school paid Riemer $124,858 – $110,434 in salary and $14,424 in benefits.
Sisson said she was unable to provide Riemer’s salary in the past year or any severance package.
Lake Norman Charter “will comply will all lawful public records requests,” she wrote in an email. “That said, I do not currently have access to all of the information we may be required to provide per your request. However on short notice, what I can provide is the salary information you have requested, which I have attached,” in the tax return.
According to the tax return, Lake Norman Charter has 1,270 students.
In comparison, Mary Louise Jones, principal of Hopewell High School, which had 2,460 students in the 2009-10 school year, made $121,689.24 in “total pay” as of April, according to a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools salary database. School district officials were not available to say if “total pay” includes benefits.
Matthew Hayes, principal of North Mecklenburg High School, which had 2,118 students in 2009-10, made $97,250 in “total pay” as of April. Teresa Cockerham, principal at Hough High School, made $113,547.20 in “total pay.” Hough’s student population was not available.