by Max Brantley
Here's the latest draft of a contract for interim LR School Superintendent Linda Watson. The contract, which the school board will consider this evening, provides pay of $167,900 (for about 10 months, from the present through June 30); a $750 monthly car allowance, the same health coverage other district workers receive and a $20,000 annuity. Plus, when the job is done, she's entitled to her old job as senior director of student services.
AT THE MEETING: Board member Melanie Fox objected to paying an interim supt. at the level a regular superintendent would be paid. She also objected to giving an interim broad powers to reshape the district or to seek the permanent job. Board member Larry Berkley also objected to the pay level and said it left the appearance of "cronyism," an excess amount paid on basis of her friendship with members of the Board's working majority. Board member Baker Kurrus characterized the deal as "overpaying grossly," though he said he supported Watson in the job and meant no disparagement of her in making that argument. He said he simply wanted an explanation for the high rate of pay.
Board member Michael Daugherty defended the pay offer. He said Watson was qualified.
It developed that some board members believed a lower contract amount had been informally reached in a previous executive session. Board member Diane Curry agreed, but said the matter also was placed in the hands of lawyers for negotiation and that produced the deal on the table Tuesday night. Kurrus said the board ended up where it started, an unproductive negotiating process. "This is exactly where we started with Roy Brooks' contract," he said. "...This is a waste of money."
Daugherty noted that Watson won't hire a deputy, a cost of the Roy Brooks administration of about $140,000. "I think we're saving money," Daugherty said. "And to bring her into this, I think she deserves it."
Mike Moore, attorney for the School Board, said Watson had made it clear through her attorney, Mark Riable, that she wouldn't accept less than salary equivalent to $198,000 a year.
The contract was approved 4-3: Mitchell, Daugherty, Curry and Armstrong yes; Kurrus, Berkley, Fox, no.
BY THE WAY: Tonight, Acorn announced its endorsement of Daugherty for re-election from Zone 2. In this zone, an Acorn endorsement has some value. Release on the jump.
ACORN NEWS RELEASE
Little Rock – Today the ACORN Political Action Committee announced its support for the re-election of Micheal Daugherty to the Zone 2 position on the Little Rock School Board.
A representative from the committee said that members were pleased with Mr. Daugherty’s leadership during the Little Rock school crisis of 2007 and believe that it is important to keep him on the school board. Pulaski County ACORN expressed public concern over the last year about the policy direction of the school district and believed that former Superintendent Roy Brooks ignored the concerns of community groups in southwest, central and east Little Rock.
“Over the last year Micheal has done a great job of standing up for the needs of Zone 2 parents and students,” said Donna Massey, ACORN Political Action Committee chair. “While we are pleased to see so many people interested in running for the position, we are urging voters to stick with the person who has worked tirelessly over the last twelve to improve our schools,” continued Ms. Massey.
“The Little Rock School District needed a change. We are proud that Micheal helped to bring about this change despite the criticism he and the other African-American school board members received in the editorial pages of the daily newspaper. We still have a long way to go to ensure that programs are in place to help low- to moderate-income children succeed. That’s why we need Micheal back on the school board,” added Ms. Massey.
Members of the committee interviewed Micheal Daugherty and Drew Pritt and received a written response to the APAC questionnaire from Anna Swaim.