New superintendent to be district’s highest paid |

New superintendent to be district’s highest paid

by Scott Murphy, Tribune News Service

Trustees clashed Thursday night before agreeing to a $100,000 annual salary for the Douglas County school district’s next superintendent.

The salary offer, which is negotiable, was agreed upon after a 4-2 vote as part of a design process for a brochure that will be sent to prospective candidates.

The $100,000 is part of an overall salary package that will be negotiated with the board’s final choice.

A permanent superintendent isn’t expected to be chosen before next April.

Other aspects of the compensation package will probably include a car allowance, insurance and moving costs.

However, the board could not agree on a package despite pleas from Trustee Jim Keegan to discuss the entire offer Thursday.

Keegan wanted the board to agree on various aspects of a benefit package so that the headhunter charged with finding Douglas County’s next superintendent can better answer questions by candidates.

Don Helms, of the 4Administrators search firm, suggested the board offer at least $100,000 for the next superintendent. He said he would answer all other questions by telling the candidate it is “negotiable.”

Keegan and Trustee David Brady voted to advertise the salary at $95,000.

Helms told trustees “that’s a little low.”

Former Superintendent Pendery Clark earned $94,200 per year.

Board President Cheri Johnson said the board’s desire to attract top candidates should be reflected in its salary offer.

The board listed numerous requirements of its next superintendent, including experience with a competency-based system, experience in working with a strategic plan and three to five years as an assistant superintendent or superintendent.

The candidate must also have at least a master’s degree, but preferably a doctorate.

“We don’t want to leave out (Interim Superintendent) John (Soderman)” Johnson told trustees. Soderman does not have a doctorate.

The candidate also must have participated in a school-based decision making system, be a strong political advocate, have a background in labor negotiations and be familiar with financial issues.

Also, the candidate must be able to “build morale through collaboration.”

Keegan said the board could have already filled the position by avoiding a search and giving the job to Soderman.

“We had someone willing to do it for $94,000,” Keegan said.

Helms told the board that “if you’re close to breaking a ($100,000) boundary, do it now.”

Brady said he doesn’t want a new superintendent to “come here for the money.”

Helms said if the board offers less than $100,000 “the number and quality of candidates is going to be reduced.”

“A $100,000 rings the bell,” he said.

Trustee Connie Wennhold, who voted for the higher salary offer, initially favored an offer of about $95,000.

“Let’s offer ($95,000) or 96,000 and see what we get,” she said.

But Johnson said anything less than $100,000 “sends a message we’ll take what we’ve got.”

“We want the best we can get and don’t want to paint ourselves into a corner with low expectations,” Johnson said.

Wennhold later changed her decision so Helms can go forward with the brochure. She said absent Trustee George Echan would likely vote for the $100,000 salary because in a letter he provided the board, he favored an initial offer of $110,000.

Keegan said the higher salary was being turned into a “photo op” by the teachers association as a means to push for higher pay throughout the district.

Helms said it’s standard for superintendents to not receive a substantial raise while working for a district because it’s often used as a basis to request higher pay among other school employees.

Helms said he has received 15 inquiries based on the district’s Internet advertisement. The contacts came from Nevada, Missouri, Wisconsin, Washington, Oregon and California.

“I’m encouraged already,” he said.

The board authorized Helms to advertise a three-year contract, which he said is considered a “minimum” in the superintendent field.

“No one comes for less than three or four years,” he said.

Nevada law allows a maximum superintendent contract of four years.

The board couldn’t decide on whether to offer a guaranteed salary if the new superintendent is fired.

Helms said California law requires an 18-month severance package.

Trustees balked at that idea, which Brady called a “golden parachute.”

“If we hire a loser (candidate,) I don’t want to be committed for five minutes to that person,” he said.

Also, the board asked district staff to provide information about the salary package given to Clark.

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