Roy Exum: The Super’s 25% Sham

Wednesday, February 19, 2020 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

I was talking to some fellas the other day – and these are pretty smart country boys – and posed this question: if a man was getting paid a base salary of $197,000, and then had a chance to jump to $240,000, what would be the percentage of ol’ Slick’s increase? One pulled out his cell phone and punched it, erased it, and punched some more. “Well, this thing says that if you had 197 cows in the south pasture, and another 250 in the east pasture, you’d have 53 more cows behind the east fence. So, if you are planning on feeding all those cows alike, the smaller herd is about 78.8 percent the size of the bigger bunch.”

“Awright then, try this stumper. If I paid a cowhand $240 and then put another $10 in his saving account, what should I tell the ‘gubment’ the old guy is getting? One laughed and allowed, “Anything shy of deuce-fifty or you’re gonna’ be in the clink …. now, quit messing … where are we gonna’ get the money for another 250 head, let alone over 10 percent in feed?”

No, I’m talking about growing my 197 to 240. What’s that in feed? “Just over 20 percent once we off-load the truck.”

That’s my point exactly. The headline in the newspaper said Bryan Johnson will get a 5.5 per cent raise tomorrow night when the school board gullible votes to increase his base pay to $240-plus-10. Let’s look at apples-for-apples for a minute. Johnson signed a four-year contract for $197,000 in 2017. Now, with two years still remaining over his signature, at tomorrow night’s School Board meeting it is highly predictable he will be awarded a new $240,000 four-year contract that will include another $10,000 that will be placed in his retirement account each and every year. Make no mistake, the $10-large is Johnson’s and it's exactly like putting it in his personal saving account but somebody – and I don’t know exactly who – has figured that if it's iced down in a retirement fund it ain’t taxed, not yet, but can still draw interest. And, in sheer honesty, ol’ Slick is pocketing over $250K, not the shrouded $240 that is being batted around like some badminton buffoons.

Now, here’s another bit. Johnson’s base salary is still $197,000 but the same numb-brained School Board ratified his contract some time ago to include any raises the teachers will get. Does this mean that tomorrow night, when Johnson’s contract is stamped “approved” at the meeting’s very beginning, he’s gonna’ double-down on that 2.5 percent raise the School Board will unanimously approve just minutes later with a “me too” 2.5 percent boost on his $240K? What do you reckon? It was a surprise when Johnson announced the “immediate” teacher raise in some phony “State of the Schools” address the very next day after his propaganda department issued a news release that discussion of his contract would be the very first item of business at the upcoming School Board meeting.

But, whoa, lookahere: There are some elementary school kids who can convince you that 2.5 of 240 equals 6. Add three zeroes behind the six and it becomes $6,000. Wait … not yet … The state is supposed to come along with another 2 percent for the teachers this summer. In our same elementary schools, 2 percent of 240 is 4.8. Because of the pesky decimal point, you can only use two zeroes because the third makes the decimal disappear. No matter, Johnson’s “fair share” of this summer’s sunshine is another $4,800.

No matter what any taxpayer might think or say, Johnson’s canny push to accelerate the new School Board contract tomorrow night will automatically roll in an additional $10,800, free and clear. See how that works?  What is interesting is the argument that performance raises and a bonus have already pushed Johnson’s base of $197,000 to a current-day annual salary of $222,000. One way to rationalize the Superintendent’s $240,000 reach is to explain that the upcoming teacher’s raises – on top of his current $222,000 – would put him at $232,100. Unbelievably, one school board member who is a friend of mine, gushed, “That is a radically different conversation!”

Please, momma, the only thing radical is that almost $11-large is going on top of his $240K, which brings us to – gulp! – over a quarter-million-a-year to a guy proven to be as wily as any carny worker that I’ve ever come across. Believe me, I don’t dislike Bryan Johnson, but I sure don’t trust him. The belief of learned men? Hamilton County’s School Superintendent is “average.” Johnson loves to coo, “Our work is about children. I want y'all to know that our work is about children,” but I have found it glaringly obvious here’s a guy who is a wiggler and grabbing every buck he sees laying. Know this too: if he’s wiggled a base of $197,000 to $222,000 in just his first two years, signing him up for a new four-year cruise makes about as much sense to the taxpayer as voting for a School Board incumbent or keeping a cobra as a pet in their underwear drawer.

The School Board talkers say we’ve got to pay him big to keep other school districts from hiring him away. This isn’t exactly true. In Metro Nashville, they bought out their third superintendent several months ago when allegations of sexual harassment seemed to be getting thicker in the air – paid something like $225-large to make him bounce. The other day there was a list of Nashville’s 19 semifinalists that proves two things: the field for superintendents is pretty sparse and trying to sweeten the pot for anybody who is bound by a contract that has two years remaining and is actually worth $222,000 today per year is flat-out stupid. Neither New York City nor Los Angeles would offer Hamilton County just south of half-a-million for the trading rights to our “Mr. Average,” and believing any smaller districts would is every bit as cut-dog dumb.

When Alabama voters go to the polls on Super Tuesday, there will be a question on the ballot to do away with the state’s School Board. Oh, they’ll keep the Board but run off everyone picked by the voters for a new set that is appointed by the governor and a panel from the state legislature. Why? The current crowd is riddled with more nuts than victims of the coronavirus. In Alabama they want more professionals, more brain power, because the “Heart of Dixie” is dead last when it comes to children who can read. The state School Board was nothing but F’s, and Tennessee’s is every bit as pathetic -- what? We are 44th out of 50 in education? If you want to know why, this in the year 2020, is that no one cares.

I have little doubt that if it were put on a referendum to change Hamilton County’s School Board to appointments versus popular vote, the outcome would be incredibly against a group that has shown no regard whatsoever for where the money comes for continuous tomfoolery. An informal poll on The Chattanoogan that asks, “Should Supt. Bryan Johnson receive a raise to $240,000 with a chance to earn $20,000 more?” is running 85 percent against. I was wrong in the belief the School Board’s decision can be overturned by the County Commission – no, the money comes straight from the Department of Education’s allotment in the FY2020 budget. Once it’s done, it’s done, but let’s never forget – the money really comes from the taxpayers. Apparently, few if any care what happens.

If you are so inclined, call your district’s school board member. The phone numbers are on the Hamilton County website and your call must be accepted before the start of tomorrow’s 5:30 p.m. scam or every one of them will line up like second graders for the lollipop. Now, listen to my boys as they explain how the newspaper’s 5 percent is actually 25 percent at the county co-op where we buy livestock feed that you can actually see and touch:

* * *

“Yo, Lefty, I been thinking, if we contracted with Con-Agra two years ago for four years of cow mix, and we got 197 head in the south pasture, what percentage you think it would cost to do a new contract for now 261 in the east pasture. “Man, I ain’t even got to use my phone for me tell you that’s over 25 percent more.  We’re just getting by feeding 197 but now you want to grow the herd by 54 more cows. That’s an easy 25 percent and if’n we already had the cows, how in the sam-hill are we gonna’ rise up and pay for 25 percent more feed!

“Listen, son, the only way you’re gonna’ see what is fixing to happen is to toss a new bull into the herd and it’s going to be the worst show in (breeding) that you ever saw. Just you wait, when the family finds out what you’ve gone and done, you might as well hitch your horse trailer to the bumper, grab you a pair of younger horses, and head west of Montana ‘cause people in these parts will always remember the time you went slap crazy. Only a fool would take on a 25 percent rise before the calves start fallin’ in the spring … Lordy, man, you’re acting like your hat’s on too tight…”

My sentiments exactly. Our superintendent’s jig-and-fiddle is every bit of 25 percent more than it started two years ago.

* * *

One last thing: If Johnson’s new contract skates and he’s clipping $251,000 by the time tomorrow night’s meeting is adjourned, we need to remember the $10,000 to his retirement that will puff his haul to $261,000. In the FY2021 budget, the retirement clause will jump his net to $271K and in FY2022, it will automatically be $281,000. In FY2023 the retirement boost will give him a net income of $291,000 compared to his base salary in 2017 of $197,000. Surely he will reap the benefits of any teacher salaries and bonuses by FY2023, but in just six years he will have enjoyed a 47.7 percent increase in his original contract. How you like them apples?

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