SCHOOL BOARD REWRITES SUPERINTENDENT CONTRACT
BY SAMAR FAY, COURIER EDITOR
Published: Wednesday, April 4th, 2012
Four members of the Glasgow School Board firmly rejected a draft contract for the newly selected superintendent, Robert Connors, and the board wrote a new one in less than an hour at last Wednesday’s special board meeting, using a model contract from the Montana School Boards Association.
The board strenuously objected to Chairman David Irving’s simultaneously sending the draft contract to Connors and the board members, before the board had reviewed it. The 12-page document was written by an attorney at the Billings law firm that has represented the district in litigation. It contained strong directives to manage what the attorney regarded as a great deal of risk the board was taking on by hiring a brother to supervise his sister, Glasgow High School Principal Marj Connors Markle.
Irving explained that he had meant only to save the board time, by having everyone’s comments at this special meeting, so revisions could be made and the contract finalized in time for approval at the regular board meeting on April 11. He and school clerk Kelly Doornek had discussed salary and health insurance with Connors on the phone, gotten an OK by phone from trustees, and these figures were in the draft. He said he emailed the board members that general counsel would draft a contract.
Trustee Patt Etchart moved to scrap the draft contract and start over. She said she was upset that the contract had been sent to Connors without first being reviewed by the board. She objected that the attorney was hired when the MSBA has templates for this work and that they added things like the conflict of interest section and a medical examination that the board had never talked about.
Board members Suzanne Billingsley and Alison Molvig commented that the draft seemed angry and negative, and might have tainted the board’s relationship with Conners. Trustee Charles Wilson said he had learned that contracts should be as simple as possible. A lot of board policy was put into this contract, he said. It’s better to leave policy out of the contract, because policy is easier to change than a contract.
Superintendent Glenn Hageman’s contract is two pages long.
The board refused Irving’s plea to call the attorney so the ideas in the draft contract could be explained. The board voted 4 to 1 to withdraw the draft agreement, with Irving against. Irving suggested forming a committee to write a new draft but the others were determined to tackle it then and there. They worked through the MSBA four-page model contract item by item, occasionally incorporating a piece from the draft contract. They agreed not to put in a conflict of interest section, because it exists in the board’s policy manual.
The contract offers a salary of $81,000 and up to $17,342 for medical and dental insurance.
The new draft was to be typed up and sent around to the trustees for their approval before sending it to Connors. Allowing time for counteroffers and reviews, they still hoped for approval of a contract before the April meeting.
The final agenda item was a “resolution and motion regarding actions of an individual trustee.” Although a motion was not actually made to censure Irving, the board members frankly said they were dissatisfied with his acting individually on issues, instead of waiting for a board consensus. Trustees cited the proposed buyout of Hageman’s contract and a change in the scope of the HVAC project at the high school, in addition to the draft contract. They said it caused a lot of chaos and stress with the board and the clerk.
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