The Muscogee County School Board approved a raise and contract extension for superintendent David Lewis during its combined work session and action meeting Monday evening.
Lewis will receive a 2 percent raise on his $170,000 salary, amounting to an extra $3,400 per year. It’s his first raise since the board hired him in July 2013 from Polk County, Fla., where he was an associate superintendent. The board also extended Lewis’ three-year contract by one year, which it has done each year since he was hired. Three years is the maximum length state law allows for a superintendent’s contract, said board attorney Greg Ellington.
The new contract runs from Jan. 1, 2016, through Dec. 31, 2019. The vote was 6-2. John Thomas of District 2 and Frank Myers of District 8 voted no but didn’t explain why. Mark Cantrell of District 6 was absent.
Lewis’ compensation package also has includes health and retirement benefits, a car allowance of $600 per month and professional association expenses.
In a Nov. 27 discussion on the “Columbus Concerned Citizens Forum” Facebook page about whether the board should give Lewis a contract extension and/or raise, Myers posted, “Here's what you can do to make a difference: Email Karen Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org and ask to be put on the public agenda for the December 12 meeting, show up, and let your voice be heard.
“But be ready to be reminded by the outgoing chairman that you only have five minutes to speak. And be aware that he will strictly enforce that rule unless you are a preacher who endorses casino gambling or the holder of a no-bid contract.”
After someone posted that he indeed made such a request, Myers posted, “Need 24 others.”
Two minutes later, referring to the seven board members not named Myers or Thomas, Myers posted, “Seriously, if these seven drones disguised as school board members had to sit through a couple of hours of ordinary, taxpaying people laying it out for them, perhaps they would finally get the message.”
The next day, Myers posted, “We need people to not only show up, but to also sign up for the public agenda and speak! The deadline for signing up to speak is THIS Friday.”
Seven people made the request in time to speak during Monday’s public agenda. Only four showed up, only two spoke about the superintendent’s new contract, and only one spoke against it.
Christopher Nall objected to giving Lewis a contract extension and raise. He noted the board gave MCSD teachers a 2 percent raise this year instead of the 3 percent the governor requested for all teachers in the state.
“I know teachers who come out of their pockets every week supplying their classrooms,” Nall said.
Nall also objected because, despite the district’s improvement on the state’s standardized tests, MCSD still has some chronically failing schools. That number now is six out of the district’s 53 schools, based on the 2016 College and Career Ready Performance Index the Georgia Department of Education released last week.
“As long as we have failing schools in this district,” Nall said, “I don’t agree with executives getting raises.”
Brandon Wallis also requested to speak on the public agenda against the superintendent’s new contract. He said he did some research “to prove a point, that Dr. Lewis didn’t need the raise nor extension. And what I found out really surprised me.”
Wallis said he realized the school district has improved academically and fiscally under Lewis’ leadership. Through a federal government website, Wallis said, he came up with nine school districts in the U.S. similar in size with MCSD, and he compared Lewis’ salary or compensation package to the superintendents in those districts.
“The fact of the matter is,” Wallis said, “he should have been paid a lot more to begin with.”
None of the board’s discussion before voting on the new contract involved reasons why it should or shouldn’t be approved. After the vote, Lewis thanked the board for having confidence in him and helping to move the district forward.