The County School Board voted 7-2 on Thursday night for a new four-year contract for Supt. Bryan Johnson that includes a significant raise to a base pay of $240,000. His base pay was $197,500 when he got a four-year contract in 2017. That contract was not due to run out until 2021.
In favor were Tiffanie Robinson, Joe Wingate, Tucker McClendon, Karitsa Jones, Joe Smith, Jenny Hill and Kathy Lennon.
Opposed were Rhonda Thurman and Steve Highlander.
The board also unanimously approved a 2.5 percent employee pay increase. The salary increase is to cost $7 million.
Officials said the funding comes from a strong economy and from efficient operations.
On the superintendent contract, Ms. Thurman said the board was skirting a state law that has a "blackout period" prior to an upcoming school board election. She said the next school board should have decided on the contract.
Chairman Wingate said, "There's no violation of a contract if the two parties agree on a new contract." He said, "I don't base my decisions on getting re-elected." In fact, he said the early approval of the contract might be considered "bad business" for incumbents.
Ms. Thurman, who is among board members on the upcoming ballot, said a large majority of citizens were against the move.
Dr. Highlander said the board should have stuck with the original pact. He said, "My grandfather taught me that you shake hands and give your word."
A number of board members highly praised Dr. Johnson.
Ms. Lennon said, "I really feel strongly that leadership matters in Hamilton County. Dr. Johnson is a strong leader. This is a sign that we want him here. I'm very proud of the direction we are going."
Ms. Jones said not voting to approve the new contract now is "a risk to lose a leader while the morale of teachers is up." She said, "We could lose him to a Unum."
Ms. Hill said that "smart business people invest in talent. By every standard, he has exceeded our expectations. Hamilton County Schools are the envy of the state. Other school officials gasp at what we have achieved."
Ms. Robinson said she had received some 50 calls in favor of approving the early contract and only two against. She said if Dr. Johnson left, she might no longer want to be on the board.
Mr. Smith said, "We've had four superintendents in 11 years. We need stability."
Under the new pact that goes to June 30, 2024, Dr. Johnson also will get the same pay increases as do other school employees.
He could earn up to $20,000 in additions to his pay. These include:
- $5,000 when at least half of all third grade students are on track or achieve mastery as measured by the TNReady English Language Arts assessment,
- $5,000 when 38 percent of all students across all grades are on track in Algebra 1,
- $5,000 when the average ACT composite for the class of 2023 is 21, and
- $5,000 if 90 percent of students who entered high school in 2019 graduate by Summer, 2023.