LEE SCHOOL BOARD: Objections raised over new superintendent pay

May. 16, 2013 @ 06:16 PM

School board members Cameron Sharpe and Wendy Carlyle don't appear to have any problem with Andy Bryan — who's been chosen to lead Lee County Schools as of July. They do, however, take issue with the contract he will receive as the county's next superintendent.

When the Lee County Board of Education voted 5-2 Tuesday night to approve Bryan's four-year contract with a total compensation amount of $180,278, Sharpe and Carlyle cast the two dissenting votes. Both voted for Bryan to become superintendent when his promotion was approved in April.

Although Carlyle couldn't be reached for comment, Sharpe said that their votes against the contract weren't a sign that they had changed their minds on Bryan's suitability for the job, just that they had misgivings about the salary and benefits he was offered.

In addition to his $153,840 base salary, Bryan's contract includes:

* $1,000 per month for travel.

* A smartphone, iPad and/or laptop computer.

* Various insurance plans, as well as health, dental and vision insurance for his family.

* Compensation for up to 10 unused vacation days, valued at $677.71 per day.

* A retirement plan and reimbursement of his annual contribution to the state's retirement fund.

Sharpe said he was prepared to approve $170,000 — or preferably less — especially because Bryan has never been a superintendent before. Bryan's starting salary is about $4,600 less than current superintendent Jeff Moss' starting salary was when he was hired in Dec. 2008, with 10 years of experience as superintendent in two other districts.

"With us talking about cutting people, I just think that's a little bit excessive," Sharpe said. "I mean, we're talking about cutting people, and we're giving this to a superintendent who has no experience."

Bryan, however, said he thinks the contract is fair. As for his experience, he has been second-in-command in Lee County for the past five years, serving as associate superintendent of curriculum and instruction. Prior to that, he was a teacher, assistant principal, principal, coach and athletic director in Virginia.

"I have always had a positive working relationship with all our board members, and I expect that will continue," Bryan said Thursday.

On that same note, Bryan said, he's now writing up an outline of everything he plans to do in his first three months on the job. He'll set up individual meetings with every school board member, he said, hoping to get additional feedback from them. And while he doesn't have any concrete plans concerning programs or initiatives he wants to add or take away from the schools, he said he just wants the district "to continue to improve." He will also, he said, seek input from a wide variety of community members this summer and beyond.

"As we move forward, those meetings and ideas from all those different groups will help guide what we decide to do," he said.

Lynn Smith, school board chairman, said he has every confidence in Bryan and believes he has earned his pay.

"Not only do I think it's appropriate, I think it's fair," Smith said of the contract. "I think it's fair to Andy, and I think it's fair to taxpayers in the community."

Smith said Bryan was flexible during negotiations and was even willing to take a pay cut relative to other superintendents in the area, which he said shows Bryan's cooperative attitude.

The board had originally intended to do a national search, but Smith said he is pleased with the outcome.

"[Bryan] is familiar with our employees; they trust him. ... ," Smith said. "Had we gone any other route, there would've been a huge lapse and learning process."

Despite his enthusiasm, Smith wasn't able to sell Sharpe and Carlyle on the contract. Bryan is now making about $113,000 in total compensation, according to Glenda Jones, the district's head of human resources, which means that his new $180,000 contract equates to a raise of about 60 percent. The district will, however, still save approximately $16,000 by jettisoning Moss' contract, which Jones said is worth $196,240.

Moss is in his 15th total year as a superintendent and will be moving to a higher-paying superintendent's job at the end of June. In those 15 years, he has been named regional superintendent of the year four times — including this year, the board announced Tuesday night. It was the second time in his five years with Lee County Schools that Moss was named the best public school chief in the Sandhills region.

Other honors announced Tuesday went to Jones, who was recently elected president of the Personnel Administrators of North Carolina, and to Public Information Officer Sharon Spence, who was recently elected vice president of the North Carolina School Public Relations Association.

When Moss begins his new job this July as superintendent of schools in Beaufort County, S.C., he will receive about $220,000 in compensation. That's $25,000 more than his Lee County pay package, but Sharpe said he's worried Lee County could soon find itself paying similarly high starting salaries.

"Another point to be made is we've started a trend of paying superintendents too much, so now the next one will think he gets this much," Sharpe said of Bryan's contract, later adding: "We have a first-year superintendent, and we needed to break the trend."