Manatee School Board approves superintendent contract

eearl@bradenton.comFebruary 26, 2013 


Rick Mills is a candidate for Manatee County Schools Superintendent. GRANT JEFFERIES/Bradenton Herald


MANATEE-- In a meeting filled with push and pull and complex language, the Manatee County School Board agreed on the terms of new superintendent Rick Mills' contract Monday night.

Under the contract, Mills would be paid an annual salary of $183,500.

"The assembly of this contract has relied on other districts and expertise. It will probably not ever be perfect, but it is very workable, and we can amend process and procedures," School Board Chair Karen Carpenter said. "Like a budget, it should be a working document. It is a written, explicit relationship with new superintendent."

Mills, chief executive officer of the Minneapolis School District, did not attend the meeting. He was back in Minnesota closing out his current job.

The draft of the contract was developed from previous meetings and five sample contracts from other districts. The contract will be "tightened up" in comparison to former superintendent Tim McGonegal's contract, Carpenter said.

The contract draft reflected hours of work and discussion to pull together a document that was an accurate expression of the will of the school board. It was sent out to the board on Friday to review over the weekend, and it was also posted online for the public to view.

School board attorney John Bowen identified typographical errors in the contract. School board vice chair Julie Aranibar clarified that Bowen was not saying that the scope of this contract be changed, but that they would be discussing grammatical errors and other actions, including salary.

Aranibar moved to accept the draft as a base document to be revised and approved, and the motion carried 5-0.When Carpenter asked board members if they had changes to propose, Barbara Harvey said no. Dave "Watchdog" Miner had previously brought changes and amendments he wanted to see to the board's attention. Both Gause and Carpenter said that they agreed with some of Miner's proposed changes.

One dealt with the way the salary was worded. The draft stated that starting Jan. 1 2014, the annual salary will be increased by a percent equal to the federal consumer price index for the four proceeding quarters.

Miner saw this as confusing and contradictory, and said that he believed the intent was to say that the annual salary increase would be the same as the increase in the federal consumer price index.

His purpose was not to alter the substance, but to clarify the intent of that provision.

School board member Bob Gause had another idea in mind.

"If (district) employees don't get a raise, then neither does the superintendent," Gause said.

Miner said he wanted to change the syntax of the provision but had no objection to a subsequent motion that would tie an increase or decrease in the superintendent's salary to another standard, as long as it was stated clearly.

Gause said he appreciated Miner's effort to clean the language of the contract, but he wished to go further by amending it so that the superintendent's salary increase does not exceed that of the district employees' average. If the consumer price index stays flat or decreases, there would be no salary increase.

Gause's motion passed 4-1.

Miner also wanted to make revisions regarding the semantics of the contract. His motion to delete the word "annual" from "annual salary" passed 5-0.

Miner's motion to add that the superintendent may only accumulate a maximum of 60 vacation days also passed 5-0. This phrase was added to the provision capping the amount of unused vacation pay to 60 days.

Failing, was a proposed amendment to the contract involving liability and legal fees.

Miner motioned to add that in the case of a dispute with the superintendent, the board would have no obligation to pay Mills' attorney fees.

The motion failed 4-1.

Both Gause and William Vogel, a member of the citizens advisory group who attended the meeting in place of interim superintendent David Gayler, thought this amendment immediately set a tone of mistrust.

"When you put something like that right out of the gate, you are setting them up to fail," Gause said.

Part of Mills' 100 day entry plan is building trust with the board members and the community.

"My goal is to create a shared vision of accomplishments for students and student learning," Mills said early Monday in a phone interview with the Herald.

The revised contract is being sent to Mills' attorney for final approval. It will be available for the public to view online on the school board's website.

Erica Earl, Herald reporter can be contacted at 941-748-0411, ext. 7081 or@ericabearl

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