Heated debate sparked comments

Published 12:32 am Thursday, December 2, 2010

Dear editor,

The Selma City School Board’s discussion over the proposed contract for superintendent Dr. Don Jefferson went long, nearly three hours.

Upon his appointment at the school board meeting Sept. 9 I asked the board develop a contract prior to appointment.

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Considering the issues surrounding the contract of the new schools financial officer Grindle Harris, this seemed to be a better solution rather than waiting until an employment offer was made. The majority of the board choose not to take this route.

Over the past two months it is my understanding Jefferson made requests via the board’s counsel of his contract requirements. The proposed contract was just delivered to my office on Monday of this week. The 10-page contract in my opinion was not in the favor of the school system and the taxpayers I was elected to represent.

Jefferson’s proposed contract is for a total package of over $170,000, including a salary of $118,500 plus nearly $10,000 for in-town travel allowance (equivalent to 410 miles every week of the year in a town the size of Selma), an additional personal $250,000 life insurance policy along with a fully paid disability policy (with no cost or policy guidelines in the proposed contract), additional retirement funds (on top of the state retirement deposit of $14,824), fully paid medical coverage and other items. All of this in a city where the average income is well under $30,000 per year and unemployment is approaching 30 percent. And from a school system that is soon to be low on cash reserves and is not making the minimum standards of AYP.

My hope was for a performance-based contract, in which he would be compensated for improving our schools and assisting in being better stewards of the taxpayer’s money.

In addition to the exorbitant requested compensation he also has asked for the following; a three-year contract, in which if terminated he receives his full compensation for the entire remaining contract period. Moreover, a six-month board notice to non-renew his contract is required or it automatically renews for a year. Finally if Jefferson informs the board he is looking for employment elsewhere, the board has no recourse but to continue to pay him while on a job search. Certainly during this period of time he cannot have the interest of the Selma City School System as his main concern.

Keep in mind the board can only act on the recommendations of the superintendent. Such as in the case of the past superintendent, who was still in complete control of the Selma City School System (after submitting his resignation) during a critical decision period and failed to make recommendations that potentially could have saved the system close to $1 million dollars in expenses with minimal disruption.

It is the responsibility of the board to insure this situation is not repeated.

During the discussions Tuesday this subject was intensely reviewed and I compared this situation to a private sector job. Most employers would not offer such a contract to any employee regardless of position and would certainly not provide for a highly compensated individual during a job search.

I made the comment that an employer’s function is not to simply provide jobs for individuals and that employees should earn “it” (their salary). I stated the school system is not the welfare department where people can “stay home smoke dope and make babies.” While I was emphasizing the point of the disparities in the contract, I did generalize those on welfare unfairly and certainly meant no disrespect for those who are in need.

While I appreciate The Selma Times-Journal needs to report news, my feeling is the focus should be on the superintendent’s extravagant contract desires rather than my poorly worded comment about welfare recipients.

Holland Powell