School Board puts off contract vote for superintendent to discuss details

The Orleans Parish School Board delayed a vote today on its new superintendent’s contract because board members want to further discuss details in the agreement.

For about 90 minutes, the board discussed the term of the contract and how the proposed base salary of $180,000 compared with other parishes, as well as with charter-school leaders.

Board President Seth Bloom made it clear the board likely would not  vote on Henderson Lewis Jr.’s contract, whom the board unanimously selected earlier this year. Bloom said this was the first time members had been in the same room since the contract was negotiated.

Board members could again consider the matter during committee meetings next week.

The contract circulated by board members Wednesday included a $180,000 salary and $1,000 per month stipend for work-related travel in Lewis’ personal vehicle. Lewis can also earn up to $10,000 in merit pay each year by meeting specified performance objectives.

The contract as written would terminate in March 2019. But state law prevents the board from hiring a superintendent for more than two years beyond the end of the board’s term, attorney Bob Hammonds said. Hammonds helped negotiate the contract for the School Board.

The term of the current board expires in December 2016, meaning at most Lewis’ contract could run until December 2018. The termination date the board appeared to favor, and Lewis confirmed he would prefer, is June 30, 2018.

Comparing Lewis’ proposed salary to other metropolitan areas isn’t as simple as comparing student enrollment though. A majority of the city’s students are in charter schools operated by the state-run school district. Those schools will not fall under Lewis’ purview, unless they opt to return to the local School Board.  The number of schools in the district could dramatically increase if all eligible RSD schools opt to return. Most recently, 36 school were eligible, though only two have taken steps to do so.

“Your enrollment last year was 13,385,” Hammonds said. “If you look at the other 13,000 [student] systems, you have Lafourche [Parish] paying $190,000.”

But Hammonds also cautioned the numbers he was providing did not include merit pay or other benefits.

“We also had to consider what some of your charter school principals were getting as well,” he said.

The School Board currently oversees 14 charter schools and six direct-run schools.

Some charter school leaders in the city make more than Lewis will earn.

Board members also agreed they wanted to give Lewis autonomy in hiring and firing decisions. This is something general counsel Ed Morris and Hammonds suggested they do through board policy.

Members Sarah Usdin, Woody Koppel, Nolan Marshall, Leslie Ellison, Cynthia Cade and Bloom were present at the special meeting. Ira Thomas did not attend.

Bloom and Cade will continue to negotiate with Lewis and his lawyer in the coming week.

Usdin requested board members have at least 72 hours to review the contract before being asked again to vote on it.

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About Marta Jewson

Marta Jewson covers education in New Orleans for The Lens. She began her reporting career covering charter schools for The Lens and helped found the hyperlocal news site Mid-City Messenger. Jewson returned to New Orleans in the fall of 2014 after covering education for the St. Cloud Times in Minnesota. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with majors in journalism and social welfare and a concentration in educational policy studies.

  • nickelndime

    First of all, Lafourche Parish is not Orleans Parish, and all of them (including the Lafourche Parish School Board) get down on their knees every night and thank gawd for that. Then, there are the CEO salaries of the “Blessed Trinity” (the Riedlinger, the Landry, and the Hicks) to consider. Run that by me again – why? And finally, Usdin wants to see the “contact” 72 hours before they vote – and that would be why? So she can run it by brother-in-law (Barrosso, Usdin…). “Holy Crap, BatMan,” said Robin as he lamented the inhumane treatment of sealing up bats in the belfry at Banneker. See if you can say that real fast. BATS IN THE BELFRY AT BANNEKER…03/05/2015 6:22 PM

  • nickelndime

    Does the OPSB really need a new academic superintendent anymore? Polite has basically caused the removal of Ira Thomas. Other than his giving motivational speeches to RSD students and being a role model to the “poor” at-risk students in RSD Orleans public schools, I was beginning to wonder if there really was a U.S. Attorney in the office. Stan is still there. His only threat is gone. Padian is still there doing whatever it is she does. And then we are still left with the Usdin voting bloc (Usdin, Koppel, and Bloom) which all goes to show that whenever the “powers that be” want to get somebody, they will do it the dirtiest way they can. And that is what Polite was used to do. A Jim Letten he is not – but even Letten wound up at Loyola.
    03/08/2015 3:32 PM

  • nickelndime

    “foxybrown123” thinks that “nickelndime” condones “alleged” felonious behavior. That cannot be further from the truth. BTW, THE LENS, I hope you stay out of this latest fiasco because it is 99.9 percent hot air. However, that does not mean that I am not in it knee-deep so FWIW: “What I am saying ‘foxy…’ is that there are so many holes in this supposed ‘charge’ that it looks like Swiss cheese and the prosecutors who orchestrated this ‘sting’ are going to get the last laugh when Polite takes his ‘stuff’ out of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in a cardboard box on the steps of a federal office building. BOY A got used. And he deserves it. Maybe the RSD will throw him a bone, but I sure as hell wouldn’t.” 03/10/2015 9:52/10:02 PM