Commissioner Chad Stewart: School Board Can’t Find Money For Classroom Supplies Or Teacher Supplements But Funds 94 Percent Salary Increase For New Superintendent
Even before his first day on the job, the Johnston County School Board is defending a 94 percent pay increase they awarded to their new superintendent. At the same time Johnston County commissioners have expressed concerns about the spending of the school board calling it an “educational bureaucracy.”
On Friday, WTSB News reported Dr. Ross Renfrow’s salary will nearly double from $110,600 to $215,022 when he becomes superintendent on March 1st. In additional to the 94 percent salary increase, Renfrow’s contract includes a 3 percent cost of living increase every year, $10,000 per year towards a retirement plan of his choice, and $2,500 for each of 6 goals he meets annually, up to a maximum $15,000 per year. This represents about $90,000 in Johnston County tax dollars in addition to the state supplement.
If Renfrow is fired from his position, he will be paid up to two years of his salary as severance. Renfrow, a 22 year employee of Johnston County Schools, is the current deputy superintendent, a position he has held for nearly three years. He was named Nov. 16th as the replacement for retiring superintendent Dr. Ed Croom after no one else was interviewed for the position.
School Board Chairman Larry Strickland of Pine Level said, “The bottom line is that if we want an outstanding superintendent for the Johnston County schools, the board must be willing to pay for an outstanding candidate. Looking outside the district would be time consuming and could cost the board and taxpayers additional expenses that would not be needed.”
Strickland said Wake, Mecklenburg, and Durham counties all pay their superintendents more than Johnston.
School Board member Donna White of Clayton said officials saved $20,000 to $40,000 by selected someone locally rather than go through a national search. “We felt that a local person was more what the school system needed and we had viable candidates for consideration.”
County Commissioners React
How the school board is using county funds, especially to supplement the pay of the new superintendent, is a concern to County Commissioner Chad Stewart who spoke exclusively with WTSB News on Tuesday.
“”I am totally opposed to this contract. I’ve already spoken to Chairman Strickland and voiced my concerns. I’ve heard loud and clear from the citizens of Johnston County over the past 5 days and have heard from no one that was in support of this contract. As a county commissioner it is my responsibility to protect taxpayer money. I feel a great responsibility for the teachers, students, and parents but not the educational bureaucracy in Johnston County,” Stewart said.
“The state superintendents salary in Johnston County is approximately $150,200. I am not in favor of spending approximately $90,000 in county funds, on top of the state salary, when this money could be better used to increase teacher supplements and in the classrooms. We are losing teachers to neighboring Wake County every year because of lower supplements but we are not losing administrators.”
“When the PTA’s are having to buy copy paper for schools, and teachers are having to buy supplies with their own money for their classrooms, this sends the wrong message,” Stewart told WTSB.
“I think Dr. Renfrow is an outstanding educator, but this has nothing to do with him. I’m concerned about the school board’s spending priorities. These will be my top concerns when we enter into budget negotiations with the school board for the 2016-17 fiscal year.”
Johnston County Commissioner Chairman Tony Braswell of Pine Level released a statement Tuesday saying, “While I believe Dr. Ross Renfrow is a good educator and will be a good Superintendent, I have concerns about how press reports indicate his compensation package was negotiated. When Johnson County classroom teachers are leaving for other counties, it would seem that the local funds would be better utilized in our classrooms rather than in support of a 94% salary increase for one person. As the Johnson County Board of Education is a duly elected board in their own right, they should be the ones that explain their process.”
WTSB News reported last month that 52 percent of all teachers who left Johnston County Schools last year left to teach in Wake County. That is up from 42% two years ago. The primary reason is higher teacher supplements. “They don’t have to travel very far to increase their salary,” Chief Personnel Officer Brian Vetrano told the school board at a Nov. 10th meeting.