Harper’s Contract Extension Improper

Posted on Posted in Education, Politics

I would like to share some thoughts on the comments made by Fred Kittle in the article below…

  • The contract extension Dr. Harper received in 2014 was done without the consent or knowledge of the board.
  • The trigger for the automatic renewal provision that has been cited by previous BOE Chairman Davis Nelson as the rationale for the improper extension was not in effect because Harper was given a two-year extension in 2013.  The automatic renewal only activates in the final year of the contract, which would have been 2015.  Dr. Harper notified the Board as prescribed under his contract in 2013. (Read the 2013 article HERE)
  • Are we to really believe that while Davis Nelson and Dr. Harper where BOTH under PSC investigation that they conveniently forgot the rules prescribed by the contract and the fact that an extension had already occurred in 2013?
  • The real reason for the 2018 extension was because Fred Kittle questioned the validity of the 2014 extension and this vote had to occur to correct the improper action. In reality, until this vote an argument could be made that Dr. Harper was about to be working on a 1 year contract.
  • Davis Nelson while under investigation himself was the only board member who signed the 2014 contract extension for Dr. John Harper. Traditionally, the entire board signs the contract for the superintendent.
  • The only discussion that occurred as a board was initiated by me and centered on the idea that NO contract action should be taken until after the Professional Standards Commission (PSC) reached a decision. The PSC decision was in March of 2015…
  • In 2009, I expressed some very serious concerns about the automatic renewal provision that was placed in Dr. Harper’s contract.  My concern then and now is the board should never cede its hiring authority to obscure contract language. (Read the 2009 article HERE)
  • There are serious issues occurring in the Bartow County School System and apparently Fred Kittle is the only one who cares…Are there any other LEADERS on the board? How much corruption will this board, allow to before they finally exercise proper oversight?

Content taken from the Daily Tribune:

Bartow County schools Superintendent Dr. John Harper has received a vote of confidence from his school board.
At its monthly meeting Monday night, the board voted 4-1, with District 4 board member Fred Kittle opposed, to renew Harper’s contract, extending his term as superintendent until June 30, 2018.
“I am honored by the confidence placed in me by the board members,” Harper said. “Since my administration began, we have worked to improve our schools in several areas, such as the one-to-one technology conversion, which put a personal laptop in the hands of our fourth- through 12th-graders, opened the College and Career Academy and began a more expansive focus on career-related training, built new schools where necessary and ensured our schools are safer through new security measures. However, we still have areas that need improvement, and in the next few years, we will work closely with the school board to see even greater steps taken to provide the children of Bartow County with an excellent education.”
Harper’s contract wasn’t set to expire until June 30, 2017, but school board Chairwoman Anna Sullivan said board members agreed to the one-year extension to give the system more stability for some future projects currently in the works.
“The school system is in the process of some significant, long-range initiatives, such as developing plans for the new system designation, which most people will know as IE2, and SPLOST [Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax] planning, among others,” she said. “As a board, we felt that extending the superintendent’s contract provides added stability and support for this important work. We look forward to continuing to work with the superintendent as we address the challenges and celebrate the successes of our school system.”
But Kittle said he had several reasons for voting against the renewal, mainly stemming from an issue he has with an automatic renewal clause in the original contract written June 15, 2009.
Kittle said a press release from Harper’s lawyer after his legal troubles earlier this year were resolved stated the board had voted in June 2014 to extend the superintendent’s contract by three years, until June 30, 2017.
“The press release was incorrect,” he said. “There was not a board vote in 2014. This year, I learned that an automatic renewal took place in 2014 where the former board chair and superintendent signed a contract. There is a 2013-to-2016 contract that was voted on by the full board.”
Kittle provided the renewal clause that was put into Harper’s original 2009 contract: “If the Board does not notify the Superintendent in writing before June 30th prior to the beginning of the last year of this contract that this contract of employment will not be renewed, it shall be deemed that the Board has added an additional year to the life of the current contract. The Superintendent will remind each member of the Board, in writing, of the existence of this automatic renewal clause. Such notice shall be given at least two months prior to the June 30 renewal date. Failure to give the required written notice shall invalidate the automatic renewal clause.”
“In my opinion, the 2014-to-2017 contract was not valid for three reasons: The last year of the 2013-to-2016 contract would start July 1, 2015; the superintendent did not notify each board member in writing; [and] the state says ‘an individual board member has no legal authority to take any action on behalf of the board unless specifically authorized by the board,’” he said.
Kittle said he “pulled the contracts, and it appears the automatic renewal came up in 2011 and 2013.”
“The superintendent in 2013 did give a written notice, and the board voted to give a contract from 2013 to 2016,” he said. “This shows the superintendent was aware of the required written notice to each board member.”
Besides the renewal-clause issues, Kittle said he had other reasons for opposing the extension at this time.
“One is communication,” he said. “A few recent examples are the 2014 contract extension [I] learned this year, the SACS report on the communication issue, not given time to research key items before key votes that affect student achievement, such as the bell or block schedule. I learned days before having to vote [on the block schedule]. I did not want to lose 20 teachers before knowing all the facts. Some teachers, I learned at church, knew before the board vote from SACS we were going to the block schedule.”
Another reason was “not having the required board retreat in 2013 or 2014 that is required for the superintendent evaluation,” Kittle said.
“At this meeting, the superintendent is to present the system data along with his goals,” he said. “This is one of the key measures in the evaluation process. In fairness, the superintendent did have a meeting this year that is now called the annual meeting. He did lay out a well-thought-out set of goals and plans. I believe our new board Chair Anna Sullivan was instrumental in having this happen.”
A third reason involved hiring and promotion practices.
“We seemed to be losing some key people, and I worry that we are not giving enough weight for our highly qualified people to advance,” Kittle said. “I believe in hiring the best within our budget and giving highly qualified people from within the first opportunities.”
Kittle added he thinks Monday night’s vote “does correct a flaw in the 2017 contract.”
As an addendum to Harper’s original contract, the only change in the new contract is the ending date of his term, according to school system spokeswoman Cheree Dye. He received no benefit or salary increases with the contract addendum.
In 2014, Harper’s salary was $167,298.36, including a 15 percent increase that can only be used toward an annuity, plus an additional $32,919.24 in board payouts such as vacation reimbursement and Teacher Retirement System benefits, Dye said.
“As the 25th largest school district in Georgia [out of 173 districts], Harper’s salary is proportionate with comparable school systems,” she said, noting he was the 22nd highest-paid superintendent in the state. “Harper was the only superintendent of a comparable school system in 2014 without an assistant superintendent. When considering student population from highest to lowest, every school district ranked from 22 to 33, with Bartow ranking at 25, had at least one assistant superintendent in 2014 earning in the range of $95,000 to $151,000. Carroll County, ranked directly above Bartow as the 24th largest school district, had three assistant superintendents with salaries totaling $316,756.05. The district directly below Bartow ranked at 26 was Walton County with two assistant superintendents who earned a total of nearly $248,000. The superintendents of Walton and Carroll earned $241,152.48 and $184,250.66, respectively.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *