12/03/13 — Board keeps leader; will pay bonus

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Board keeps leader; will pay bonus

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on December 3, 2013 1:46 PM

In a break from tradition and by a split vote Monday night, the Wayne County Board of Education decided to keep its leadership status quo for another year.

The board was unanimous, however, in awarding the schools superintendent a $6,500 evaluative supplement.

The annual reorganization has traditionally taken place at the December meeting, with the vice chairman moving into the top role.

When the nomination opportunity was introduced by the board attorney, Jack Edwards, board member Arnold Flowers submitted vice chairman Chris West's name for consideration. Then Edwards asked if there were any other nominations.

"I would like to nominate John Grantham to succeed himself in the ensuing year," board member Rick Pridgen said.

Put to a vote, Grantham was re-elected by a slight margin, 4-3, with each candidate casting a vote for himself. Grantham supporters included Pridgen, Thelma Smith and Dr. Dwight Cannon. West's votes came from Flowers and Eddie Radford.

Flowers again nominated West, who was elected, unopposed, to continue as vice chairman.

No discussion followed. But afterward, Pridgen explained the rationale behind the move.

"John and Thelma and I were on the ground floor on the facilities plan in December 2002," he said. "This is like the sixth plan."

He said all three of them had been on that original board and involved throughout the process, which included working with commissioners to bring the construction projects to fruition.

"John being an engineer, a construction engineer, we felt like he needed to stay in the position, at least until we get a shovel in the ground," Pridgen said.

While there is no policy or legality prohibiting a board chairman from serving subsequent terms, it is not a typical occurrence for the school board, although Prigden said he believed it had happened years ago.

He said the feeling was that Grantham, along with the superintendent and assistant superintendent for financial services, had been intrinsically involved in meetings with the county and keeping him on board would maintain consistency.

West chose not to comment.

The board was united on giving the superintendent his annual supplement, in accordance with his contract.

For the past two years, the board was divided on paying the bonus. It still passed both years, but with a vote of 5-2. Flowers and then-member Len Henderson opposed the motion both years.

"This is the first year I voted on giving Dr. (Steve) Taylor his supplement," Flowers said, noting that in previous years he usually refrained from making a comment, but adding that this year he "wanted to explain."

He said as an employer, his No. 1 reason for giving bonuses had been because the company was moving ahead.

"I truly believe our school system is moving ahead," he said. "Secondly, I gave bonuses based on extra work and this is coming up where we have two schools we're trying to build and many other projects, in the central attendance area, Norwayne, Spring Creek Elementary, hopefully Southern Wayne. A lot of extra work (is) going on.

"I know Dr. Taylor has got retirement out there on the horizon somewhere. We have got all this stuff on the table and it definitely will require extra work and extra time. My purpose tonight in giving the bonus, I think you're a good superintendent."

Radford said the board has taken heat in the past for awarding the supplement, especially during the bleak economic times. But in talking with superintendents from other districts, he has seen supplements of $20,000 to $40,000, compared to the $6,500 designated in Wayne County.

"If there's such a thing as a deal, I think we're getting a good deal here," he said.

Since being hired in 2000, Taylor's contract has been extended every year by one year, to keep it at a four-year contract. In 2012, he opted not to request the extension. Then on April 19 of this year, he announced his retirement, effective July 1. A few weeks later, he reversed his decision, saying he would postpone retirement for an undetermined amount of time. The Board of Education had not voted to accept his resignation, so no further action was required.

One reason he chose to stay on, he said, was to see through some of the projects that were under way.

"This is my 14th year. One goal that I have reached for that has not been attainable is facilities," he said. "Is it going to happen while I'm here? Is it going to happen when I leave? I'm hoping it's going to happen while I'm here."

Taylor praised the architects hired to oversee building two new schools in the district, Spring Creek and Grantham middle schools. He said he hoped to move things along as quickly as possible, and to enlist continued support from the county commission.

"I'm looking forward to another year and looking forward to working with all the boards to get these things done," he said. "To me, the evaluative supplement is not the dollars. It's the vote of confidence in me."

He said there were some "big things" coming up in the year ahead beyond construction, including Read to Achieve, a state initiative to improve third-grade reading skills, and the district's accreditation in March.

"Mr. Flowers, you mentioned my giving it my all," he said. "I try to do that every day. I work with a fine group of people at this level and at the school level. That's what it takes to work together as a team."