Superintendent James Bacchus has resigned from the Hattiesburg Public School District effective immediately Tuesday, according to HPSD communications director Jas N. Smith and the Hattiesburg school board .
"Today is his last day," Smith said.
Marcus Cathey, president of the Hattiesburg Public Schools Board of Trustees, said "Mr. Bacchus has submitted his resignation as superintendent of the Hattiesburg Public School District. The board accepted his resignation, and we are now taking steps to move the district forward."
In his letter, Bacchus said his last day with the district is Dec. 18, 2015. Cathey explained that while he is contractually employed by the district until then, Tuesday was his last day of work for the district.
"My wife and I will be here in the community," Bacchus said during his resignation announcement to the central office staff. "We love Hattiesburg. Our work will always be for the best of Hattiesburg Public School district and more importantly, the children and families that are here."
Bacchus made the following statement about the school district's financial status in his resignation letter:
"As you know, over the past four months, we have struggled to define the district's current financial status to the approved budget for the 2015-16 school year. The projections now show a deficit that was not anticipated. I have now found that neither I, nor the Board, was informed of some critical relevant financial information. Also, procedures were not carried out that would have normally allowed me to address financial issues of the district. As a result, my ability to lead the district as superintendent has been compromised."
This decision comes just one month after Seven On Your Side investigated questionable spending by The Hattiesburg Public School District.
When asked if the district's financial standing played a role in Bacchus' decision, Cathey said the board is waiting to comment until it receives an annual audit.
"In the near future, I'm told in about three weeks, that an official audit report will be released," Cathey said. "We're going to wait until that time to officially address the finances of the district."
Teresa Poole, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, will step in as superintendent immediately, according to the school board's response to Bacchus' resignation letter.
As for a new full-time superintendent, the board made the following statement:
"The Board has begun the process of selecting a long-term interim who will oversee the district during the transition to a new full-time superintendent. We would like to assure all of our staff, parents and community members that we will conduct a thorough search for the absolute best person to fill the role of superintendent for Hattiesburg Public Schools."