MANATEE -- The sins of his predecessor may have cost Manatee County's newest school district superintendent some perks in his contract, especially when it comes to its termination agreement.
Mills has accepted the employment contract that was revised and then approved by the school board on Monday. The contract outlines his salary, vacation and sick time, start date, severance agreement and even speaking engagements outside of his superintendent duties.
Mills is set to arrive in Florida next month and to start his new job March 20.
Mills agreed on a salary of $183,500. Former superintendent Tim McGonegal's base salary was $165,000.
But while Mills will earn more than the former superintendent, provisions such as sick time, vacation time and severance are less attractive than McGonegal's package.
"Whenever there is a 'love fest' toward a superintendent and that person retires on a good note, that flavor rolls over rightly or wrongly to he next person who comes in," said Bill Graham, executive director of the Florida School Board Association's labor relations service. "If the previous person is fired or leaves on an unpleasant note, then whoever comes after may be punished unfairly."
Rather than focus on McGonegal's contract, school board member Robert Gause said the district compared superintendent contracts from Seminole and Sarasota counties as they considered the provisions and expectations in Mills' contract.
"It is an opportunity to make the contract better, not so much to reject past ones," Gause said.
Both Gause and school board chair Karen Carpenter said the contract reflects
the board's philosophy of inter-accountability and performance expectations, which is reflected in the payout at termination.
"McGonegal's contract was not strong enough," Carpenter said.
Mills' contract does not allow for as large a payout as McGonegal was allowed under the termination and resignation clause of his contract.
According to the former superintendent's contract, McGonegal was entitled to his annual salary and all benefits prorated for the remainder of the term of the contract if he was terminated without cause.
In the event that the board terminates Mills' contract without cause, he will receive payment for a maximum of 20 weeks, the state requirement.
McGonegal's contract stated that in the event of his resignation, he was to receive the balance of his base salary for the actual days he served as superintendent plus unpaid sick leave earned up to his last day of employment.
Mills' contract does not include a resignation clause.
"We are making sure the board and students are protected," Carpenter said.
For that reason, she said, this contract needed to be specific.
"It is about performance and increased accountability, and if you don't get the job done, you don't get rewarded," she added.
Mills can earn 25 working days of annual paid vacation each contract year, and any days not used will be carried over to the next year. A revision was made Monday that Mills may only accumulate a maximum of 60 vacation days. McGonegal's contract did not include a cap on vacation days.
Carpenter said that vacation days exist to create a healthy balance, not to accrue them for a big payout.
The board agreed that unused sick leave will roll over. For McGonegal, the board provided a payout rate of 50 percent for any unused sick leave at the end of the fiscal year.
The school board also decided to make cutbacks on the superintendent's car allowance.
He will receive a monthly supplement of $650 for out-of-county travel.
McGonegal was provided with a monthly car allowance of $750, and his contract did not explicitly state that it must be for out-of-county travel.
Mills said that he was not taken aback by any of the provisions in his contract and that he is looking forward to building a trusting relationship with the board.
The contract is available for public viewing on the school board's website.
Erica Earl, the Herald's education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081.