Bartow County School Board members at an Aug. 6 called meeting unanimously approved a renewal of Superintendent John Harper's contract that has him serving for a three-year term ending June 30, 2013.
The Daily Tribune News was provided a copy of the renewal Monday following requests to obtain the document at the Aug. 6 meeting and the Aug. 9 board work session.
"I'm very excited about having three years to work here and get that graduation rate the way I'd like it to be, which is 92 percent, and I think we'll get there," Harper said after the Aug. 6 meeting. "We've got some very hard-working teachers, and I'm very proud of all of them."
At last month's board business session, Harper was given an extension through July 31, 2011. Board Vice Chairman Roger Maier said the extension vote was made then as Harper's contract would've automatically been extended by one year had no board action been taken on it. The original contract end date was Dec. 31 of this year.
Maier at that July 19 meeting said board members could revisit the contract issue at a later time if they so desired; only three board members were present at that meeting, while all five were present and gave their approval of the Aug. 6 agreement.
"It was basically the same language in the contract," Board Chairman Lamar Grizzle said of the renewal. "This was just where we could all come together and sign the contract, because some of us would not be available [the] next week."
Harper has been with the district since January 2007 when he was hired to serve as assistant superintendent for administrative and support services under then-Superintendent Abbe Boring. He held that position until becoming the system's interim superintendent in January 2008 following Boring's departure to become superintendent/CEO of the Georgetown Independent School District in Georgetown, Texas.
In April of that year, the school board selected him to become the permanent head of the district following a superintendent search conducted by the Georgia School Boards Association; he was one of the three finalists who emerged from the field of 27 who applied for the job.
Neither last month's extension nor the full contract renewal approved earlier this month increased Harper's annual salary, which has remained at $145,000 throughout his superintendent tenure.
"The board said something to me a couple of years ago about [a raise], and I said, 'The environment's not right for that. I've signed on for what I've signed on for,'" Harper said following the July 19 meeting. "In days and times where we're telling people they're going to lose days, like myself, and terminating people because we don't have space for them to be able to afford them, for me to take a raise would be not appropriate."
Contract language amended by the Aug. 6 addendum included the addition of a 24-month buyout clause and a change to wording regarding the superintendent's travel. Under the former, early termination of the contract of the board without cause set forth in state law would require the district to pay Harper his annual salary in equal monthly installments, less routine withholdings, for two successive years following termination.
Causes for termination of contracted school personnel allowed under state law include incompetency; insubordination; willful neglect of duties; immorality; and inciting, encouraging, or counseling students to violate any valid state law, municipal ordinance, or policy or rule of the local board of education.
Grizzle said the buyout language was typical in superintendent contracts.
"Typically, that's negotiable. When the superintendents leave, even if they're under contract for three years, they usually negotiate that with the board, and [this language] takes out that negotiation process," Grizzle said.
The travel portion of the amended contract states that the district will pay the superintendent a monthly sum of $750 to cover the use of his personal vehicle when he represents the district. Harper will be allowed to use a system-owned vehicle for district business when an event requires travel of more than 200 miles.