Collier School Board compromises on some superintendent contract changes

Kamela Patton, new superintendent Collier County Public Schools on NewsMakers 5-8-11

Kamela Patton, new superintendent Collier County Public Schools on NewsMakers 5-8-11

Pat Carroll on NewsMakers

— Incoming Collier Superintendent Kamela Patton will get two additional vacation days and $5,000 in addition to her moving expenses.

She will get the additional insurance benefits she asked for, including district-paid vision and dental insurance.

But she will not get all the vacation days she wanted, the $12,000 tax annuity, the six personal days or a $250 increase in her car allowance — at least at first.

Those were some of the compromises the Collier County School Board made Thursday evening as members went through proposed revisions Patton made to her contract.

Patton’s changes, described earlier this week as “extensive,” caught some School Board members by surprise. Board member Pat Carroll even said they could “possibly” be deal breakers, while other members remained confident a deal would be reached.

Before Thursday’s meeting, the board released a revised contract with changes made during a conference call Wednesday with Patton, her attorney, District Attorney Jon Fishbane and Board Chairwoman Julie Sprague.

Among the changes, Patton’s request that the school board cannot reassign her from her position as superintendent without her written consent has been struck, as was a provision that would require the board to pay her $12,000 in a tax shelter.

Another change, Patton will comply with state statute, which will give her four sick days on the first month of her contract year followed by one vacation day for every month of employment. The request for personal days has been cut, as per board policy, which requires employees to use a sick day if they need to take a personal day.

The district has also removed a clause that would require the board to hold a hearing with Patton in a closed session should the board decide to terminate her contract, which is a violation of the Sunshine Law.

Patton had asked for $750 in mileage, which Sprague thought was a reasonable request.

“I don’t believe $500 a month is enough to cover her expenses,” she said.

But board member Barbara Berry said $750 seemed to excessive.

“She is asking for more than $6,000 in compensation for a car,” Berry said. “If she sits in the office upstairs for one month and can’t get to the schools, we have given her $500 for her car.”

Berry said she thought the district should offer $500 and then review the amount to see if Patton needed more money.

But board member Kathleen Curatolo said calculating all of those miles would be time consuming – too time consuming for a CEO.

Parent Becky Newell said she was thrilled that Patton wanted to be out and involved in the community. She urged board members to think about their actions.

“I don’t want the fact that you are limiting the amount of money she gets for maintenance and car mileage to discourage her,” she said. “You act like she is trying to take us for another $250 a month. I don’t think that’s the case.”

But Deana Bess didn’t see it that way. The Naples resident said the monthly stipend was excessive.

“You have a fleet of vehicles she could use. Why can’t she drive her vehicle to work and then take one of the district’s cars when she goes to the school?” Bess asked. “And, if she has to go to Immokalee in the morning, why can’t she drive a car home? You wouldn’t cost the district $6,600 a year.”

Bess urged the board to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars.

“We have a $59 million shortfall. Every dollar matters to us,” she said. “Lee County has hired a superintendent with a smaller salary and significantly less benefits.

Eventually, board members agreed to ask Patton to track her mileage in September and October. They would review the $500 stipend at their November meeting.

Board members also compromised on Patton’s vacation benefits, giving her 22 days — more than the 20 days they had initially proposed, but fewer than the 25 she asked for.

Board members agreed to pay vision and dental insurance for Patton at a cost of about $300 a year. Board members noted that Patton, who is single and has no children, would not ask the district for additional benefits for family members.

The board also agreed to give Patton $175 a month for a phone and a wireless card, which would allow her to get Internet access while away from her office.

“She is a person who wants to be connected all the time, which is a good thing,” said Sprague.

Fishbane told board members that he would work on a revised contract and get it to them as soon as possible so they could review it before he sent it to Patton and her attorney. The ball is then in her court.

Once the contract goes back to Patton, she can either sign it or make additional revisions.

Patton has been offered a three-year and one-month contract, which would begin June 1 and end June 30, 2014. She would earn $200,000 for the first year — a figure that was decided by the board before superintendent candidates’ interviews began.

The School Board is slated to host a special meeting at 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 1, to swear in Patton as the new superintendent. A public reception is to follow.

Connect with K-12 education policy reporter Katherine Albers at www.naplesnews.com/staff/katherine-albers/.

© 2011 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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