Divided school board votes to keep Alexander at helm

John Thompson • Apr 20, 2012 at 9:17 AM

ELIZABETHTON — A divided Elizabethton City School Board voted Thursday night to keep Superintendent Ed Alexander for another year. The new contract will extend Alexander’s employment to Sept. 11, 2013. He has been superintendent since 2006.

Alexander received votes from Chairman Matt Cooter, Kim Birchfield and Rita Booher. Catherine Armstrong and Connie Baker voted against the new contract.

Cooter said the terms of the contract are exactly the same as his current contract except for the later date of his employment. There is no increase in pay or other benefits, except that when teachers receive a raise Alexander will receive the same percentage raise.

Following the vote, Alexander said it is embarrassing to have salary and benefits discussed in a public setting. He said that during the past five and a half years the school system has made progress “in spite of the opposition of two board members.”

Baker questioned whether three votes would be enough. She cited board policy 5.801 on “Director of Schools Recruitment and Selection,” which requires at least a two-thirds vote of the board to appoint a director of schools.

Cooter said that policy applies to the hiring of a new director. He said the board’s policy is silent when it comes to extending the employment of a director, and when the policy is silent, state law applies. He said state law requires only a simple majority.

After casting her no vote, Baker said three board members were up for re-election this year. She said it would be unfair to have a director in place before the new members have the opportunity to decide who they wanted. Since Alexander’s contract would have expired before the election, she said one of the supervisors could serve as an interim director until the new board members are elected.

Booher said the upcoming election of three board members was exactly why Alexander needed to be in place. She said a brand new board would benefit from Alexander’s six years of experience.

“The greatest thing we need is stability,” Booher said. She said Alexander was an anchor.

Armstrong said she thought the contract was renewed too soon, since there was still half a year to go before the old one expires.

In other matters, the board struggled with the loss of federal stimulus money that had been used to help fund education assistants the past two years. At one time, there were 53 full time assistants who were paid with short-term federal money. Last May, the assistants were briefed on the possibility that funding for their position could go away.

Rather than eliminate the positions, Alexander has asked the Elizabethton City Council to increase local funding to the school system by $375,000 to cover the cost. In the event the city does not increase funding, the plan is to convert the positions from full time to part time, eliminating the cost of benefits but giving the assistants a pay increase from $8.10 per hour to $9.50 per hour.

The board also revised the school calendar because of the mild winter and the use of only one snow day. The final day of class will be May 23. May 24 and 25 will be professional development days in which the core curriculum will be discussed.

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