The Flagler County School Board this evening approved a three-year contract with its incoming superintendent, James Tager, paying him a base salary of $135,000 a year, with potential annual performance bonuses. Tager begins June 1.
The full compensation package, before incentives kick in, is $154,200. In February, the school board set a salary range for the position of $125,000 to $149,000, not including additional benefits or incentives.
“I think it’s a very fair pay,” School Board Chairman Trevor Tucker, who negotiated the contract with Tager, said. It was Tucker’s idea to add bonuses in the contract: if Tager pushes the district’s grade to an A (the district has been stuck at a B for four successive years), he would get an additional $2,500. If her keeps it at an A, he can keep earning that extra $2,500, but not more. If he improves the district’s graduation rate by 3 percent, year over year, with the 2016-17 school-year as a baseline, then he would get an additional $2,500. (The state’s grading system has been criticized by teachers’ unions and other education advocate for that very reason: tying employees’ salaries to often controversial performance measures that are not necessarily in their control or reflective of the overall quality of a particular school or its district.)
The board did not discuss or debate the contract before approving it in a 4-0 vote, with Colleen Conklin absent (she is traveling on a trip long scheduled previously, to mark her 20th wedding anniversary).
The board’s swift approval mirrored Tucker’s negotiations with Tager. “We didn’t have very much back and forth, it was very smooth, very nice,” Tucker said in an interview this afternoon. “He didn’t come up with the bonuses or structure, that was my take on it. I feel if you incentivize something, you get better results. I don’t think money was his motivation. I truly believe he’s in it for students.”
Tager will be replacing Jacob Oliva, who was hired at a base salary of $125,000 three years ago, with a 2 percent cost of living increase each year, plus some salary incentives ranging between an additional $3,000 to $7,500 a year upon completion of certain leadership development benchmarks. It was not immediately clear what benchmarks he had met, but with an additional 8 percent in deferred compensation and a $6,000 a year car allowance, his complete pay package was closer to $146,000 a year. Oliva did not have a health insurance package different from that of rank and file employees. He was afforded participation in the Florida Retirement System and could accrue just 18 vacation days a year plus six personal days.
Tager’s contract follows some of the same contours, with some changes. He will get a 2 percent a year raise to account for inflation provided the board has approved the same increase for its rank and file, will have the same health insurance benefit as employees, and will participate in the Florida Retirement System. He will not also have the 8 percent deferred compensation supplement to his salary, and the $3,000 to $7,500 a year supplement should he complete leadership programs. The car allowance has been replaced with a more lucrative benefit: a district-provided vehicle, all its expenses paid, with maintenance and fuel provided by the district, though use of the vehicle is limited to official duties. He’s not losing the cash allowance, but the contract now terms it an “expense allowance,” and bumps it up to $8,400 a year.
Tonight’s meeting continued the board’s newfound unity, marked by its coalescing around Tager last month. “Different opinions on the board are good but it is great we are all behind our next superintendent, that is a great thing,” Tucker said.
Oliva, for his part, was roundly applauded by several people, including many who have known him over the years in the district–some of whom, like Stewart Maxcy, the retired Flagler school administrator, revealed that Oliva’s ambition was to be governor. Oliva is taking a job at the state Department of Education in Tallahassee.
To end the meeting, Oliva was feted with an 11-minute tribute video produced by his staff that started with his baby pictures.
Tager’s first action: he wanted a June 6 retreat, at 9 a.m., should the contract be ratified. That didn’t work for at least one board member, nor did a few additional dates. June 19 was tentatively set as the date.