SHEPHERDSVILLE – A year after a similar request failed, Keith Davis received an extension to his contract as superintendent of the Bullitt County Public School System.
Davis will now serve through June 30, 2017.
The extension did not come without much discussion as the final vote was 3-2 with chairman Tim Wiseheart breaking the tie to approve the motion.
The two board members who took office in January – Roger Hayes and Darrell Coleman – voted against the contract extension.
Lorraine McLaughlin, Dolores Ashby and Wiseheart voted in favor.
For Hayes, his major concern centered on extending the current contract when everyone else in the district works under a one-year contract.
He said by extending the contract, it would handcuff a potentially new school board since Ashby and Wiseheart are up for election next year.
Hayes pointed back to a former board member who voted for an extension and was beaten at the polls. He said that should send a message that people may not be interested in extending contracts.
He also was concerned about what happens if the county had to buyout the contract of Davis.
Hayes said he wasn’t being pessimistic thinking that there would be a reason to buy out the contract, of which the terms would not change.
Since 2007, Hayes said the contract of the superintendent had risen 14.4 percent. The current contract is $143,000 a year and there is another 10 percent of that amount that goes into an annuity. Family health, dental and vision insurance is also part of the package.
During that same time period, Hayes said the salaries of the assistant superintendents had gone up 4.9 percent, while certified and classified employees went up 2 percent. Hayes said the step raises given to eligible employees should not be considered a pay increase.
If the request had waited a couple of years, Hayes said it might be justified. He was just worried about binding another board through 2017.
Coleman centered his concerns on the timing of the extension and on the data showing that the district may not be making the progress it should.
“I consider this to be an insult,” Coleman said of the request.
With only three months on the board, Coleman said he had not even had a chance to evaluate the superintendent.
Before extending the contract, Coleman said he deserved the right to do an evaluation on the superintendent’s performance.
“I would like to give you an official evaluation,” said Coleman, who defeated incumbent Sammy Allen last fall for the board seat.
But looking at the performance of the district, Coleman said the comment was made five or six years ago that the district would live or die with the ACT scores.
By 2014, all schools are supposed to be proficient. At the last count, Coleman said only eight of 22 reached that mark.
In terms of ACT scores, he said there had been little improvement in the composite score. Bullitt Central had actually gone down in the past five years, while Bullitt East and North Bullitt had risen.
“These are not impressive scores,” said Coleman.
In defense of the scores, Davis said that not every school is going to be proficient by next year. But he said there is no one who can deny that the district is making great strides academically.
He said the foundation is now in place to see ACT scores improve. By looking at the pre-ACT tests given to eighth graders and 10th graders, Davis said those scores are improving every year.
Coleman said unless the ACT scores improve, students would not be graduating.
Hayes defended the district’s academic scores and said that the state of Kentucky realized that every school couldn’t be proficient by 2014 so it has changed the test twice.
But he said some of the things tried now, such as the college and career ready emphasis, were tried in the mid-1980s.
McLaughlin, who voted against the extension last year, said that there should be no concern over the superintendent’s salary. In looking at comparable districts in Kentucky, Davis’ contract ranks near the bottom.
The concerns would be different if the academic scores from the county were going down. Instead, she said everyone knows that the district is making great strides thanks to the work of the staff and the wonderful teachers.
She wished that everyone could receive a large salary increase.
And McLaughlin said it was not time to change the horse in mid-stream.
In terms of why her vote changed over the past year, McLaughlin said she probably now has a better understanding of the district and its workings.
She was happy to make the motion to extend the contract. Last year, it had nothing to do with performance; it had to do with the upcoming election in which three board member seats were up for grabs.
Her biggest concern is that the board members should be there for the students. And that is what guides her votes.
Ashby said she also felt the timing was wrong last year. Having a few months on the board, Ashby felt more comfortable in considering Davis’ request.
Under the Democratic system, Ashby said everyone on the board had a chance to make their statements and vote. In her situation, she was very pleased with the path being taken by the district and she was only worried about doing what was best for the students.
Wiseheart, who cast the deciding vote, said it was not an easy decision but many of the choices made by the board members are not simple ones.
“This is not about an election,” Wiseheart said in reference to an earlier comment. “I am here to do what is best for the students and I am sure that is what all the board members are here for.”
Having voted down the extension last year, Wiseheart said the circumstances were different. Last year, he said the board members were caught a little by surprise. This time, the communication was much better.
Also, he didn’t want to have three board members elected and not have a say. Instead, he said the board waited until one was re-elected, one ran unopposed and another did defeat the incumbent.
He wasn’t worried about any division among the board members.
“If you are here for the right reason, there shouldn’t be any problems,” said Wiseheart.
He appreciated the opportunity that everyone had to voice their opinions but he disagreed with any thoughts that the district was not making very positive strides.
Following the decision, Davis said it provided an opportunity to see what support he had with board members.
Without support of the board, it is difficult for any district to move forward.
“The vote showed that a majority of the board supports what we are doing,” said Davis. “I will continue to work with every board member and address any concern they might have with me or what we are doing.”
He agreed that he didn’t communicate well with the board on the extension request.
Having one of the higher salaries of anyone in the county, Davis said he understands the concerns. However, in looking at other districts of similar size, and even with many smaller districts, Davis said the contract is not out of line.
He has always had his contract on the district’s website and he is not trying to hide anything.
Money is not as important as security and having the support of the board.
“All the data is showing that we are moving in the right direction,” said Davis. “Maybe I need to do a better job of communicating and explaining that.”
He knows that there are programs in place to help students excel. If not, Davis said he shouldn’t be superintendent.
“I don’t want the board divided,” said Davis. “I will work as hard as possible to show them that we are going down the right path.”
One thing he is certain is that the district is not changing direction that might endanger the progress being made.
“Our children depend on what I do,” said Davis. “We have a district of very talented and dedicated people who are working to make sure we continue to improve. It’s all about the kids. That’s what we are here for.”