International Storytelling Center board discloses new director’s yearly pay

Sue Guinn Legg • Sep 13, 2013 at 4:28 PM

Members of the governing board and senior staff of the International Storytelling Center organization came to the consensus Thursday that the salary of ISC’s newly hired executive director should be made public.

Dr. Bill Kennedy, chairman of the ISC’s board of governors, said the consensus came early in a daylong strategic planning session.

“There’s nothing to hide. There’s no reason not to release it. It’s $65,000.” Kennedy said.

The salary was negotiated with ISC Executive Director Kiran Singh Sirah, who began work in August following a six-month search for a replacement for ISC founder Jimmy Neil Smith, who retired on Dec. 31.

Responding to editorial criticism levied by Jonesborough’s Herald and Tribune this week for his refusal to release Sirah’s salary two weeks ago, Kennedy said, “I didn’t feel I was authorized to release it. I didn’t have Kiran’s permission and I didn’t have the authorization of my board.”

“Kiran didn’t want that released,” Kennedy said. “Kiran just wants to focus on his work. He’s new to this community and he didn’t want that to interfere with his ability to work and to relate to people here.

“We assured him it would not. And we felt there were compelling reasons we should release it.”

As for the rest of Thursday’s meeting, Kennedy said the ISC board and staff began work toward what will be a long-range plan for the ISC’s financial stability and viability.

Smith’s retirement was a condition of a reorganization plan through which the ISC emerged from bankruptcy in June 2012. The ISC initiated the bankruptcy in January 2011 after defaulting on more than $3 million in construction loans on the International Storytelling Center building on Main Street in downtown Jonesborough.

The town of Jonesborough purchased the building soon after the bankruptcy and at the same time entered a long-term lease with the ISC that allowed its year-round storytelling programs and annual storytelling festival to continue at the facility.

Smith said the ISC’s entire senior staff agreed to substantial reductions in their salaries during the financial difficulties, including a $25,000 cut that reduced his salary as executive director to $65,000.

Related story:

International Storytelling Center refuses to disclose director's salary

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