Manatee mulls 2-year contract extension for Superintendent Rick Mills

mdelaney@bradenton.comMay 25, 2014 

BRADENTON -- Superintendent Rick Mills wants to stay with the Manatee County School District for the long haul, according to the proposed changes to his contract.

Mills worked with a private attorney to make a half-dozen changes to his contract, including adding a two-year extension, changing the way his pay bonus is calculated and requiring a unanimous vote if the board wants to terminate him without cause. The school board is set to consider those contract changes during Tuesday's school board meeting beginning at 5:45 p.m.

The employment contract Mills signed in February 2013 pays him a base salary of $183,500 a year, includes an annual increase based on the rate of inflation and put Mills in his post until 2016. The increase is not to exceed the percentage increase for all district employees. In addition, Mills receives a $650 monthly car allowance and a $400 monthly allowance to be used for community- and business-related expenses. If the board does not take action each year before June 1, the contract will automatically extend for one year.

On Tuesday, the school board is set to vote on a motion to extend his contract for two years, until 2018. Mills and his personal attorney came up with the list of amendments for the board to consider under the new business section of the agenda.

"I think it's important to communicate to the community that I'm here for the long haul," Mills said of the two-year extension proposal, adding he has no plans to work anywhere other than in Manatee.

Extending the contract an additional two years would also help attract and maintain quality leaders in the district, Mills said.

"Stability is critical to attracting and retaining high caliber people," Mills said. All the proposed changes are to help create stability in the leadership, which will then help the district move forward, he added.

On Tuesday, the board can also propose and vote on other changes to the contract, said board chairwoman Julie Aranibar.

"That discussion will happen at the dais," she said.

Proposed changes from the superintendent include:

• Requiring a unanimous vote by school board members to terminate the superintendent's contract without cause. The previous contract did not include such a clause, but having such a clause is important to promote leadership stability in the district, Mills said.

If the board, which voted 3-2 to hire Mills, wishes to terminate the contract without cause, the board will have to give the superintendent 30 days' notice in writing on or before June 30 of any year within the term of the contract.

• Requiring a majority vote by the school board members to terminate the superintendent's contract with cause. Cause includes immorality, misconduct in office, incompetence and willful neglect of duty.

• The section concerning terminating the contract with cause was also updated to reflect a more narrow definition of cause. The proposed change would strike a portion defining cause as "the illegal use of controlled substances, commission of an act that brings public disgrace upon the Superintendent or District, or conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude." The proposed contract would change that portion of the language to say "for use of illegal drugs or conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude."

• An annual performance salary incentive up to $7,500 based on a "satisfactory evaluation." Previously, the salary incentive was based on the successful completion of a superintendent's course. Mills already has a superintendents' license and said it would be better to evaluate him based on his performance. In the contract, the superintendent is to be evaluated annually. The review is to be based on the school district goals and other factors the board deems appropriate. According to the contract, the superintendent is to be evaluated by June 1 each year.

If three board members gave the superintendent a poor evaluation, that would trigger discussion on whether Mills would receive the annual performance salary incentive, Aranibar said.

Four out of five board members have completed Mills' first-year evaluation so far, ranking him as "above average" and "exceeding expectations" in every area. His overall score so far is 9.25 out of 10. Mills' one-year anniversary with the district was in March, but the contract gave board members until June 1, a little past his one-year anniversary, to evaluate Mills.

One evaluation isn't ready

Dave "Watchdog" Miner is the only board member who has not yet turned in his evaluation of Mills. As of Friday, Miner said he would not have his evaluation completed before Tuesday's board meeting because he wants to hear more about the district's financial and academic progress before completing it.

• The proposed change also adds that the first renewal of the contract will extend it for two years, until June 30, 2018. The proposed changes keep a system in place where the school board must vote on the annual contract. If the board fails to vote each year before June 30, the contract will automatically extend for an additional year.

On Tuesday, the board will consider adopting all or some of the proposals in the contract.

Miner, who said he briefly had a chance to look over the proposed changes, expressed concern over the cash-strapped district spending more money on the superintendent through the regular salary increase stipulated in the contract and annual performance salary incentive clause, citing past examples of superintendents in struggling districts who have taken pay cuts or foregone raises to help cover financial shortfalls.

"We're having a hard time finding enough money to pay for a lot of things," Miner said.

Miner said he was looking forward to hearing the public's comments and reactions Tuesday.

In other business Tuesday, the school board is set to:

• Hold a public hearing for consideration of adopting a policy concerning service animals in the school.

• Consider a proposal to increase the price of school lunches for students by five cents.

• Consider the agreement reached between district officials and five charter schools concerning transportation. Memorandums of understanding signed by the charter schools last week cannot be finalized without board approval.

Meghin Delaney, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081. Follow her on Twitter @MeghinDelaney.

Bradenton Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service