Calhoun Co. Schools superintendent found ‘ineligible’ by retirement system

He retired as an educator in 2019, and filed for retirement benefits, but then took a job as Calhoun County superintendent.
Published: Oct. 25, 2023 at 6:13 PM EDT
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MORGAN, Ga. (WALB) - Calhoun County Schools Superintendent Michael Ward can’t work for the rest of October. The Georgia teacher’s retirement system found Ward was “ineligible to work with Calhoun Schools as superintendent” for the last three years.

WALB has been investigating this story for weeks.

The investigation began when an educator filed a complaint with the T-R-S and the I-R-S about Ward’s pay and position with Calhoun County School District.

“The only individuals that have suffered and continue to suffer by as much are the students and the certified teachers,” an educator who wished to stay anonymous told WALB.

Ward retired as an educator in 2019, and filed for retirement benefits, but then took a job as Calhoun County superintendent.

Documents show Ward failed to take a required one-month pause from employment before returning to work at a TRS-covered school.

“You illegally terminated pursuant to Georgia state law certified teachers that’s vetted through the state when you should have never been on premises working. And when I say ‘you,’ I am referencing Michael Henry Ward, the superintendent,” the educator said.

Maurice King is representing the educator who filed that IRS complaint against the school district.

He says he has had concerns about Ward’s pay as a part-time superintendent for years.

“I went to the school system a year ago and told them that it is crazy to pay a part-time superintendent at 49%, $10,000 a month. If you look at superintendents at neighboring counties, you will see that full-time superintendents barely get more than 124,000 a year,” King said.

Part of the educator’s complaint alleges that the school district misused federal Title I funds to pay Ward as a consultant in June of 2019 when he was supposed to be taking an employment break.

WALB found records from the Georgia Department of Education that Title I funds were allocated to Calhoun County Schools in 2019.

“Title I fundings are using for the purpose of mainly instructional enhancements, and it is federal funding, and every penny that comes out of that account is monitored,” the educator said.

“Calhoun County is a rural county, and I would venture to guess that if you were to go and look at the scores of the children, they are probably not where they should be. It appears to me that the logical thing to do would be to bring someone in who can relate to the students and community and try to improve the testing of those children,” King said.

According to emails between the school district and the Teacher Retirement System (TRS), which were provided to the educator through the Open Records Act, the district had to repay money to the TRS for Ward’s overpayment, and for the benefits he received from 2019-2023.

Ward’s TRS benefits were terminated.

The Calhoun County Schools Board of Education for Calhoun said they have no comment about the matter at this time.

WALB also reached out to him for comment on his school email, however, we have yet to hear back from him.