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Tensions rise as EBR School Board finalizes new superintendent's salary, contract

1 month 5 days 19 hours ago Thursday, July 02 2020 Jul 2, 2020 July 02, 2020 8:19 AM July 02, 2020 in News
Source: The Advocate

BATON ROUGE - During a Wednesday night meeting, the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board approved a three-year contract for its new superintendent along with an annual pay of $255,000, in addition to benefits.

But according to The Advocate, not everyone was on board with the decision as several board members voted against granting incoming superintendent, Leslie Brown, an annual salary that they felt was too high.  

Those who were against the final decision, in a 6-3 vote, included Tramelle Howard, Dadrius Lanus and Evelyn Ware-Jackson.

When the three elaborated on their concerns, explaining that Brown’s salary is too extravagant in comparison with similar school districts and expressed additional doubts related to the car and technology allowances she's set to receive, Board President Mike Gaudet responded with, “These (issues) were discussed and it was determined that this is the best deal we could get.” 

But when this didn't end the discussion and led to a series of questions, Gaudet fired back with, “If you don’t like it, you can start the year without a superintendent.”

This comment triggered defensive remarks from those against the new superintendent's proposed salary. 

“We can’t move forward as a board if we’re going to be disrespecting each other,” Lanus told Gaudet. Then Lanus demanded that Gaudet "address the disrespect" he'd shown, but Gaudet continued on with the meeting.

Brown, a Fort Lauderdale, Florida, educator, won't officially take over as superintendent until August 1. Her contract will continue through June 30, 2023.

She's replacing Warren Drake, who led the school district for the past five years, and her annual salary is less generous than than those in Drake’s contract.

Brown’s proposed annual base salary of $255,000 is slightly less than the $257,000 a year Drake currently makes. Drake’s overall compensation package is valued at more than $400,000 a year. Gaudet did not estimate the value of Brown’s contract, but said “it’s a significant reduction” compared with Drake's.

However, this is Brown's first time taking on the role of superintendent in contrast with Drake, who served East Baton Rouge Parish after spending a decade running the Zachary school district. 

Other differences in Brown's compensation as compared with Drake's include:

-No automatic pay raise. Brown will get a raise only if teachers get a raise as they did this past school year. Drake received a 3 percent annual pay raise.

-Smaller retirement payments. Starting in July 2021, Brown is to receive a tax-sheltered annuity worth 8% of her salary, or $20,400. Drake has a retirement account which paid him $86,511 this past year; that's the equivalent of what the school system would have paid if Drake were participating in the state’s teacher retirement system.

-Annual car allowance of $10,000 and electronics allowance of $3,000. Drake’s annual allowances are $18,000 and $6,000, respectively.

-Medical and other insurance benefits that other educators in the school system are eligible for. Drake currently receives a $6,000 annual allowance to purchase his own insurance.

After the Wednesday night meeting, Tramelle Howard said he was surprised Gaudet had agreed to a salary of $255,000 a year, when between $230,000 and $250,000 would have been more appropriate.

He also said Gaudet’s “if you don’t like it” comment was out of line.

“If we can’t ask questions and we’re just supposed to be rubber stamps on this board, we can get the hell up off of it and go somewhere else,” Howard said.

As Brown takes on her new role, she brings with her experience as chief of portfolio services for Broward County public schools, the seventh largest school district in the nation, with more than 270,000 students. That’s more than six times larger than East Baton Rouge Parish schools, which have more than 41,000 students.

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