The DeKalb County Board of Education Thursday night, by a five of 5 to 2, offered Director of Schools Mark Willoughby a new three year employment contract during the regular monthly meeting which was held at DeKalb West School.
The agreement, which Willoughby will sign, takes effect July 1st, 2011 and runs through June 30th, 2014
Seventh district member Johnny Lattimore made the motion to offer the contract with essentially the same terms as the current contract. Willoughby's base salary will remain at the current level of $93,067 per year except for any additional raises that the state or local government may approve for educators.
Third district member Kenny Rhody offered a second to Lattimore's motion.
Fourth district member Billy Miller tried unsuccessfully to amend Lattimore's motion saying that this contract does not specify what the board expects of Willoughby other than to run the school system. "I think we need to specify in his contract what we expect him to do," said Miller.
According to the Tennessee School Board's Association, Miller said the board should "specify in writing what it wants a superintendent to accomplish; identify when those accomplishments are to be completed, and identify what standards will be used in judging whether these accomplishments have been satisfied".
"I've looked through this contract and I can't find anything that specifies what we are requiring of him other than to maintain the school system. There's nothing really specific in there. I'm looking at this contract and I'm trying to figure out what direction it is we're trying to go as a board," said Miller.
Miller also expressed concerns about the school system's not having met No Child Left Behind benchmarks in certain areas within the last six years at the high school and at the elementary grade level. "I know we're in a situation with No Child Left Behind. It appears we have been there since 2005 in one way or another. Other counties adjoining us are meeting these goals. I think it is to our benefit since he (Willoughby) is the highest paid official in this county, to not only expect something but to demand something from him as well".
Seeking to hold Willoughby accountable if the school system continues failing to meet NCLB benchmarks, Miller made a motion to amend Lattimore's motion. "The amendment should be written into the contract stating that the entire school system should meet all established benchmarks of No Child Left Behind. This goal shall be accomplished within a two year period. If any school in the system fails to meet such standards set forth by the No Child Left Behind Act within two years, the contract will be null and void with the remaining year of the contract to be re-negotiated between the board and the director of schools. The director of schools would be entitled to no further benefits or compensation for the third and final year until the contract is re-negotiated. However, if all schools in the DeKalb County School System are in full compliance with the No Child Left Behind Act, the contract shall run a full three year course with no need for re-negotiation of the contract for the third and final year," said Miller.
Sixth district member Bruce Parsley seconded Miller's motion.
In his defense, Director Willoughby said he believes progress has been made in the school system in recent years, citing that the graduation rate at the high school has improved from 67% a few years ago to 92.7% now. Willoughby added that except for the last two years when Northside and Smithville Elementary failed to meet NCLB benchmarks within certain subgroups, "all of our standards and attainability has gone up".
Last year Northside and its feeder school, Smithville Elementary, were singled out by the state as "Target" schools because a sub-group of students with disabilities failed to meet the Average Yearly Progress benchmark in the reading and language arts category. This year, Northside and Smithville Elementary were listed as " School Improvement 1" schools because the sub-group of Hispanic students failed to meet the necessary AYP benchmark for the year in the subjects of reading and language arts.
Willoughby said that while the goal of the school system is to meet all benchmarks of NCLB at all levels every year there is no guarantee, especially since standards are changing and becoming more challenging for students. "Last year we were on the NCLB (Target) list because of students with disabilities. We made the accomplishments and the goals that we should have with the students with disabilities (this year). We met our goal. But because we did not meet the goal in another criteria (Hispanic subgroup) it goes to the next level (School Improvement 1). Once you're on this list, you have to stay off (meet benchmarks) for two years in a row in order to get removed (from the list)".
Fifth district member W.J. (Dub) Evins, III said while he understands Miller's concerns, he doesn't believe its fair to hold Willoughby accountable in this way. "This is not something that one man can accomplish. You can surround yourself with some good people and get these things accomplished but the people who work under his supervision have to put one foot forward and have the same kind of goals. I can understand this being a goal but I don't feel comfortable making this a demand as a part of his contract because he can't do this alone. I think that puts some undue pressure on him as well as his support staff and the teachers. In a lot of ways the director of school's hands are tied as to what he can and cannot do."
Third district member Kenny Rhody added that since NCLB could be re-evaluated soon at the federal level, it should not be a factor in Willoughby's contract with the board. " There's extreme pressure to get NCLB re-authorized, get it rewritten by June. The Congress and Senate have had that on their agenda. They want to at least postpone the sanctions that are placed on it. I wouldn't want to tie NCLB to his contract. Other than (subgroup of Hispanic students) our students are doing excellent and our faculty and teachers are doing excellent. They're teaching and the students are learning."
During a roll call vote, Miller's motion to amend the proposed contract failed by a vote of 5 to 2. The board then voted on Lattimore's motion to approve the contract without Miller's amendment and it passed 5 to 2.
Again, the new contract is essentially the same as the current agreement in that Willoughby will be evaluated annually. He will be provided with an automobile and all expenses involved in the automobile for him to carry out his official duties. He may use the automobile for personal purposes not interfering with school purposes, provided he shall pay or reimburse the cost of all fuel during such use.
The board shall provide, during the term of this contract, such medical insurance for the director, spouse, and dependents as the school system provides for other licensed staff as long as the director maintains enrollment in the insurance program. As additional compensation, the board shall also pay the employee's matching share of the insurance plan the director chooses. Should the director elect no coverage under the school system insurance plan, no other benefit or salary shall be paid in lieu thereof..
The director shall be granted one day of sick leave for each month of contractual employment. Sick leave days shall be cumulative and unused sick leave days may be for retirement credit in accordance with the policies of the Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System.
The Director's work year shall consist of 240 duty days. Non-duty days include 10 holidays and 20 annual leave days. In accordance with state law, the director shall be allowed to transfer up to two days of any unused leave days to his accumulated sick leave at the end of the year; otherwise, unused annual leave days shall not accumulate from year to year.
The performance evaluation of the Director shall occur no later than January 31 each calendar year during the term of the contract. The board will review with the Director his performance, progress towards goals established by the board and the director; and the working relationship of the director with the board of education, the staff, the students, and the community at large; and any other matters relative to the employment of the director.
The board may extend the term of the contract at any time with concurrence of the director.
The contract may be terminated by mutual agreement of the parties or due to the retirement, disability, death of the director; for removal from office; or for willful cause upon sufficient proof of improper conduct, inefficient service (including but not limited to performance evaluation scores), neglect of duty or failure to follow board policies and directives. If the board terminates the contract for cause, he would be entitled to no further benefits or compensation.
The board may also terminate the contract without cause, at its option, provided that the board provides the director 60 days written notice of such termination.
The Board reserves the right to transfer the Director to any position within the system; however, the compensation and insurance benefits included within this agreement shall remain in full force and effect for the duration of the contract. In the event the director declines to accept transfer, this contract shall be terminated and the director would be entitled to no further benefits or compensation. Transferring the director shall require a majority vote of all members of the board of education.
The Director may also terminate the contract at any time, at his sole discretion, by giving the Board 30 days written notice of his resignation.
In other business, Director Willoughby gave his monthly personnel report to the board.
Kathy Bryant, teacher at Northside Elementary School was granted an extension of a leave of absence as per request.
Lynn Griffith was transferred to a bus assistant position and David Turner was transferred to a full time bus driver position
The board also adopted a resolution of appreciation honoring special services staff.
The resolution states that "Whereas, the DeKalb County School System is served by an admirable group of special services staff members including school nurses, guidance counselors, school resource officers, psychologists and speech and hearing specialists; and
Whereas, this group of professionals is made up of competent and dedicated individuals who play a large role in the success of the students in DeKalb County; and
Whereas, the special services staff members in the DeKalb County School District are responsible for providing a variety of special services to many students on a daily basis; and
Whereas, these professionals join the efforts of our teaching and administrative staff to help us meet the unique needs of each student from bandaging a wound to offering encouragement and hope for students in despair; and
Whereas, the DeKalb County Board of Education wishes to honor the commitment and service the special services staff provides.
Now, therefore, be it resolved that, the Board of Education hereby establishes March 17th, 2011 as Special Services Staff Appreciation Day in all DeKalb County Schools; and
Be it further resolved that the board expresses appreciation and thanks to all who provide special services in our school system and encourages each school and community to recognize these individuals for their role in the success of our school system."