Disagreement arises over cost for superintendent search

By PAT BROWN,

Simpson County School Superintendent Greg Paes is reluctant to spend the full amount suggested for the search for a superintendent to hire for 2020. 

This fact, according to school board member Stan Bulger, surfaced at the school board budget workshop held last week.

Starting next year school superintendents in all districts will be appointed rather than elected due to a change in state law.

The idea of spending $12,500 for the full assistance of the Mississippi School Board Association to conduct the search for a superintendent did not sit well with Simpson County’s current superintendent.  Paes was okay with spending around $4,500 for  help from the  Association but not the full cost of $12,500, Bulger said.

The issue surfaced when school board member Lillie Hardy suggested that the board budget funds for the filling the position of superintendent of education.

  Paes said he was interested in the position himself. 

 The school board had contacted the state Department of Education for advice on filling the superintendent’s position.  A representative of the Department met with the board to discuss what could be done.

For the largest amount the School Board Association agreed to advertise the position, provide screening of candidates, narrow the field of candidates, conduct the   interviews and recommend to the board the top three candidates.  The board would then decide whom to hire. 

The less expensive options reduced the number of services offered by  the State Department although these services are actually being offered through a separate organization. 

Some people in the county, including school board member Patrice Boykin, feel that hiring a superintendent is a role of the school board and that funds for the search could be better spent in the class room.

 It is the position of this newspaper that because of the lack of experience the board has in hiring the most integral position for the entire district, this additional money for assistance would be well spent. 

Boykin is not alone in her opinion, however.  Some individual school administrators have said that the school board should make the decision about the new superintendent, opting for someone local rather than someone not from the system. 

In other business, Dr. Robert Sanders, assistant superintendent for Human Resources and Secondary Curriculum for the district, recommended a 1 to 3 percent raise across the board for all classified workers in the district, which would include cafeteria workers, bus drivers, custodians, teacher’s assistants and data clerks. 

Sanders put the estimated expense at $60,000 to fund the raises.  The issue was tabled until more finite budget figures are available. 

An across the board raise was last given to classified workers at the rate of $200 each in the 2012-2013.  The last time an across the board raise was given to non-certified workers was also in the 2012-13 school year. 

Sanders also requested an additional $1,500 each for principals’ supplements and an additional $760 for assistant principals.  He suggested an increase in supplements for central office administrators up to $6,750 a year.  These requests are expected to cost the county almost $25,000. 

Sanders also requested that special supplements of $2,000 each be available for math and science teachers to attract more teachers to that field because the county is suffering from a shortage in those subject areas. 

 Duane Fewell, director of finance, also informed the board that full funding for MAEP, Mississippi Adequate Education Program, would increase from almost $19 million last year to almost $19.5 million for the upcoming school year.  The actual funding for last year came in just over $17 million. 

Fewell also told the board that insurance costs are expected to increase $49,000 for the next year to an annual cost of $300,000 in healthcare for the district’s school employees.