Board May Forego Buying Out Superintendent Valentine’s Contract, Saving her $18,000
FlaglerLive | January 7, 2014
The Flagler County School Board is cool to the notion of buying out the contract of Superintendent Janet Valentine, who has been incapacitated by a stroke since before Thanksgiving and will not be returning to work. Rather, the board appears more willing to accept its attorney’s recommendation and let Valentine’s contract run its course through June 30. Valentine is owed about $75,000 for the second half of the last of her four contract years.
Ending the contract early would cost Valentine $18,000 in potential retirement funds, a move the board is not eager to make. It would also require the board to continue paying valentine’s benefits through mid-July anyway. “You have that exposure anyway, you might as well let it play itself out and not incur the cost of a buy-out option,” Board Attorney Kristy Gavin told the board.
Valentine’s absence would not necessarily cost the board, as she’s due virtually six months’ worth of vacation and personal time that she’s accumulated over her career, and the board currently is being led by Assistant Superintendent Jacob Oliva, at a lower salary. Unwittingly or not, letting the Valentine contract run its course also insures that for that period, Oliva would remain the acting superintendent, which would only strengthen his candidacy for the permanent job. Oliva is favored for the job by a majority of the board anyway, and has only been gaining plaudits from board members since assuming additional responsibilities before Thanksgiving.
“The board was fairly wise in making its decision to appoint an assistant superintendent who has the ability to carry forward the wishes and responsibilities” of Valentine, Gavin said at Tuesday afternoon’s meeting with the board, which dealt with the matter. (In fact, it was Valentine who appointed Oliva, as that was in her authority; the board merely ratified the appointment as a formality, but did not, and could not, have objected without interfering with Valentine’s managerial authority.)
Gavin and Valentine met to discuss the contract after the board discussed a buy-out in December. That buy-out would have ended the contract in March. At the time, the board did not know the financial impact of such a buy-out, particularly on Valentine.
“A lot of this and the board’s decision is really going to be driven by whether or not the board needs to have an interim superintendent or whether or not, after you’ve completed your superintendent search, you have a superintendent that needs to be put in place prior to July 1,” Gavin told the board. The current search parameters would have the new superintendent in place on July 1, not before.
“The superintendent has indicated that she would like the contract to expire under its terms, without a buy-out,” Gavin said. That was Gavin’s recommendation, too.
“Makes good sense for her and for the district,” School Board member Colleen Conklin said.
That has implications. First, it means that the board will be locked into not hiring a superintendent until July 1 regardless. Second, it means Oliva will be carrying the responsibility of an interim superintendent with neither the title nor the salary. To the latter, Gavin had a suggestion. “Just as you all create stipends, if at the end of the day you decided that you felt you needed to compensate assistant superintendent Oliva in a different manner, you’d be able to offer a stipend.”
The board in its last two meetings has approved extra, one-time “stipends” for some of its employees, such as a $3,000 stipend for Auditorium Director Lisa McDevitt (whose salary of around $75,000 has reached “the maximum of her steps within the pay grade,” according to the auditorium governing board) and a $5,000 stipend each for Cheryl Massaro, the director of the Flagler County Youth Center, and Brian Willard, who’d led an employment program through the Carver Foundation (Massaro runs the Carver Center in Bunnell in addition to the Youth Center). That money was from a grant.
Those details aside, Gavin said the material issues of Valentine’s contract “should not be a driving force to appoint an interim superintendent.” Fiscally, she said, letting the contract run its course “would be the best response that this district would have in terms of your financial responsibility to the taxpayers and the district.”
Andy Dance, the board chairman, was not interested in taking action on the contract until the superintendent search is completed.
The job listing for the superintendent’s position is currently gathering applicants, but not many: the job was posted before Christmas. It had drawn just 12 applications as of today—a surprisingly low number for a superintendent position, but not so surmising considering the timing of the posting, which coincided with the holidays. The posting ends at midnight on Jan. 17.
The search committee the board appointed to provide a recommended shortlist of applicants meets next on Jan. 9 at 2:30 p.m. in the superintendent’s conference room at the Government Services Building in Bunnell. That meeting, which is open to the public, is for the committee to go over the rubric that will frame the criteria it will use to reduce the list of applicants to a few recommendations. District staff will itself use the same rubric to narrow down the list for the committee.
The school board on Tuesday evening assured members of the public that the actual interviews with superintendent candidates will be open to the public. The committee will also propose questions to ask of the candidates. The board will likely incorporate those questions with some of its own when the time comes for those interviews, which are slated for Jan. 30 and 31 in a special meeting of the board.