The Simpson County School Board met Thursday night and, based on what we were able to view, they are using logic and reason to make their decisions, whether you agree with all of them or not.
First of all, earlier in the year they decided to extend current superintendent Greg Paes’s employment agreement rather than choosing and hiring a new superintendent to begin in January 2020 as the state now requires the district to do. The catch, however, was that the terms of the agreement were not agreed upon.
Board members Danny Cowart and Lillie Hardy wanted to close the meeting to everyone and go into executive session to discuss terms of the agreement. Our objection on behalf of the paper did not go anywhere, but board member Stan Bulger stated that in his opinion the contract and terms should be transparent but discussion of Paes specifically should be in closed session. This, in our opinion, was a moot point since the board had already agreed to extend a contract to him with the details to be negotiated. The board decided--not in an open meeting--that he was going to be renewed. The term of the renewal is for 18 months to start in January of 2020 and go through June 2021.
The extension makes sense. It gets him through an entire school year, and if his contract is not renewed the new superintendent will start with a new school year, 2021-2022.
Why does this make sense? Greg Paes more than anyone knows the personnel in the school district. If what the board and the district claim is true, that the schools are on the verge of really showing improvement, it would be like throwing the baby out with the bath water to change leadership now.
Additionally, the board was new at the time they would have been seeking a new superintendent. They already had experience of working with Paes. They did not want to do a job search with everything else going on, including the possibility of having to push a school bond issue to make needed improvements to facilities.
From our perspective, the biggest problem is the fact that the board was not straightforward about their reasoning for continuing to employ Paes. But that is water under the bridge.
What we did see last Thursday were long and drawn out conversations about subjects that really did not matter to good district management.
But what we were able to glean from the back and forth, which got heated at times, is that our board members care. More importantly, Superintendent Greg Paes cares, and they all have the best interests of our district as their number one priority.
The rate of pay for Paes will go from the current $116,600 to $137,000 per year. This is the average of state superintendents’ salaries for like sized school districts, according to board attorney Wesla Leech. The lowest in the state for a like sized district is $120,000. Leech was tasked by the board to draft a proposed contract for board approval.
Much of Thursday’s discussion focused on a job description for the superintendent and the proper way to include it as part of the employment agreement. It appears that the consensus of the board is that it should be based on performance objectives, including an evaluation that would be conducted at a minimum of once a year. The board conceded that by using newly learned skills evaluations would be available more frequently based primarily on the fact that student data is tracked constantly.
Some meeting time was wasted on issues like vacation. If you have to be concerned about an issue like that, you are probably considering the wrong person.
Knowing Greg Paes as I do, he is a stand up guy and will do the best job with the resources he has. If the board will do the same, things should be fine. We really hope that the district will improve their ratings as they have said they are capable of doing.
Simpson County will be a better place to call home when we can offer a quality education to all the children in the community.