Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

May 2, 2013

BOE OKs 4-year, $110,000 DOS contract

By Michael R. Moser
Editor

CROSSVILLE — The Cumberland County Board of Education approved a four-year, $110,000 contract for Donald Andrews, who was selected to serve as the next director of schools following the retirement of Aarona VanWinkle.

Andrews has not signed the contract; however, Jim Blalock, 8th District representative, said he had discussed the proposed contract with him while he was in Cumberland County over the weekend. A special-called meeting regarding the contract has been set for Friday.

Richard Janeway, 2nd District representative, suggested a three-year contract to begin with, with the understanding the board could extend the contract after working with Andrews for a year.

"He intends to be here 10 years," he said. "Three years gives us room to look at his performance and to renew it. Two years is a little light. Three years gives us a track record. We could look at an incentive-based contract that's tied into ACT scores, graduation rates, all those things we've talked about with the evaluation."

Josh Stone, 4th District representative, said, "He's uprooting him and his family from North Carolina. I believe he wants to be here and I believe he will do a good job. Three years, I don't think, is an issue. But, he's seen the contract and would know the term had been moved back. I hope that's not a negative connotation."

Blalock said, "He plans on retiring and living here after he finishes up with the school system."

Vivian Hutson, 6th District representative, said, "He's moving here and purchasing a home. I wouldn't do that for three years."

Sandy Brewer, 3rd District representative, moved to make the contract term four years, supported by Hutson. The motion passed with Janeway; Gordon Davis, 5th District representative; and Dan Schlafer, 9th District representative, voting against.

In previous discussions, the board had discussed a salary range of $95,000 to $110,000. Andrews had requested a salary of $115,000. There was concern paying Andrews a higher salary could harm morale of school system personnel and not leave room for the board to offer a higher salary for outstanding performance by the director. There was also discussion of the fact that, while Andrews had 17 years' experience as a superintendent and 39 years' education experience, he does not hold a doctorate.

Schlafer said he was not sure it was fiscally responsible to start salary negotiations at the high end of the salary range.

"We'll get there, certainly, after a year of amazing results," Schlafer said. He also noted the school system was offering to pay moving expenses, a cost he believed would be greater than $5,000.

Charles Tollett, 1st District representative, said Director of Schools Aarona VanWinkle and the board had tried to improve salaries of all school personnel during her time as director.

VanWinkle said, "It was something I had hoped to address under my leadership, but we paid the electric bills and that was about all we could do."

Tollett said, "We have an opportunity to make a statement that we want to raise salaries for all personnel. You don't do that with a cap on the salary."

Stone noted VanWinkle's current salary, $96,000, was at that level because she had not accepted pay increases beyond increases provided by the state.

"She should have been paid more all along," he said.

Brewer moved to offer a salary of $110,000 a year, supported by David Bowman, 7th District representative. The motion passed with Schlafer, Janeway and Davis voting no.

Removed was a provision to pay the director $500 per month for transportation costs, in addition to a monthly salary.

Stone moved to remove the transportation supplement, supported by Schlafer. The motion was unanimously approved.

A provision to allow the board to transfer the director to another position in the school system, while keeping the salary and benefits of the director position, was not included. Janeway moved not to include the transfer clause, supported by Brewer, and unanimously approved.

It is a part of VanWinkle's contract, but Blalock said he did not include it in the proposal.

"If they're not doing a good job as director, I don't want them out there with the kids," he said.

Stone said he felt such action would be used to "strong arm" a resignation. If the board elected to transfer a director under such a clause, the director would have to take the position or resign, forfeiting continued payment of salary and benefits.

Board Attorney Earl Patton said the transfer provision was allowed by Tennessee law.

"If there is a situation where the majority of the board feels the director is not doing a good job, it gives you an avenue other than dismissing for cause, which is challengeable in court," he said.

Also not included was a buyout provision that would require the director or his or her future employer to repay the school system for the cost of a director search should the director leave before the contract is up, except in the case of medical leave or illness.

Janeway proposed a buyout provision of $15,000 if leaving within the first year of the contract, $10,000 in the second year, $5,000 in the third year and at no charge in the fourth year.

"We need to protect the Cumberland County taxpayers," Janeway said. "We would be looking a the cost of recruiting, hiring and relocating a director."

Schlafer said, "It means we want him to stay."

Brewer said, "In my opinion, if he doesn't want to be here, let him go."

"I think it's a deal breaker," Tollett said. "If a director leaves in less than a year, we've lost more than $15,000."

The motion failed with Blalock, Bowman, Hutson, Stone, Tollett and Brewer voting against.

The board also voted to include a provision to allow the board to request, by a majority vote, a comprehensive physical evaluation if they believe there is an underlying medical concern that could prevent the director from carrying out his duties. The contract includes a provision that the board may terminate the contract should the director be unable to perform his duties due to mental or physical illness or incapacity after 120 days.

Janeway said, "If there's a situation of a prolonged illness where the director is coming to work and attempting to perform the duties of the job, but working in denial, we can't force a physical."

Davis pointed to former University of Tennessee basketball coach Pat Summitt who resigned after realizing she was not able to perform her duties due to Alzheimer's disease.

"What if she had not resigned?" Davis asked.

All employees are required to complete a physical prior to employment. Bus drivers are required to have yearly physicals, but other employees are not. Those requesting sick leave are to provide a doctor's note.

Stone said, "It protects the director, too. A doctor would decide if the director was able to perform his duties, not the board."

Janeway moved to add the comprehensive physical evaluation, supported by Schlafer. The motion passed with Blalock, Bowman, Hutson and Brewer voting against.

The contract, as amended was approved on a motion by Stone, supported by Brewer. The motion passed 7-2, with Janeway and Davis voting against. It will now go to Andrews for consideration.

The board will meet Friday at 5 p.m. at the Central Office, 368 Fourth St. The director of schools contract is the only item on the agenda.