Douglas County school board approves contract |

Douglas County school board approves contract

by Merrie Leininger, Staff writer

The Douglas County School Board approved Superintendent Pendery Clark’s contract Tuesday after the Attorney General’s Office ordered the board to meet a second time to comply with the open meeting law.

The first meeting was held in July and the board extended her contract for one year. Clark has had a four-year contract since her second year in the district. Every year, Clark has asked the board to extend the contract for one year. She has never served more than one year before asking for a one year extension, meaning she always has four years left on her contract.

The board voted 5-2, with Dave Brady and George Echan opposed, to give Clark the one-year extension she sought. She is paid $92,611 each year. When the board voted on the same issue in July, Dave Brady was the only dissenting vote.

Echan and Brady said they did not think a four-year contract was necessary.

“I opposed it because we are at a point in implementing the competencies, we don’t need the appearance of a long-term contract,” Echan said. “When she was first hired, she was given a four-year contract, which is the maximum under the law. It was considered the minimum time she would need to implement a brand new reform program. But if she is terminated, the district could face potential liability if she didn’t get a job somewhere else.”

The contract can be terminated without cause with two years’ notice. If Clark cannot find a new job, the district might have to continue to pay her for two years. If she finds a new job, is fired with cause or quits, the district is not required to pay her for any time left on her contract.

“The reason they added that paragraph is the majority of the board feels it’s important to have consistent leadership during this time of implementation and there needs to be somebody who knows about the competencies see it through,” Clark said. “With the election coming up, and not really knowing who would be on the board, they were concerned (when they first voted on the contract in July) if others came on the board who didn’t feel that way, they didn’t want to financially obligate the district to 2004. The paragraph gives me an opportunity to work with the new board from January to June 30. Then when they evaluated me, they could give me notice they didn’t want to continue my contract, but I would have two years to find another job. Or, if they said, ‘We want you to leave,’ we would have to come to some sort of financial agreement.”

Clark said at the Tuesday meeting if she is terminated with no notice, she plans to find a new job as soon as possible.

“If I felt I didn’t have the confidence of the board, I would not be here. (If I am terminated) I’m not interested in obligating the board; I’m interested in finding a new job,” Clark said.

Forrester complained that the public has unfairly judged Clark.

“She’s not perfect and she and I have gone around and around,” Forrester said. “But she’s busted her tail. She knows more than anybody in the district and probably works harder than anybody in the district. The union has been so good at stirring up the teachers. So many people believe she’s horrible, and they’ve never even met her.”

Tuesday night, the board did not go into executive session to evaluate Clark’s performance, since that part of the July meeting was not in violation of the law. However, many board members, including Michele Lewis and Cheri Johnson, spoke about their confidence in Clark’s work.

“We set out to find a leader with a clear set of principles, a clear vision of a quality school district which is fiscally responsible and the guts to push for quality changes, who is not going to flee when the going got rough,” Lewis said. “At this point, it would be irresponsible to jeopardize the reform that is taking place. There have been too many hours put in in the name of student achievement. This contract sends Pendery the message we believe she is doing a good job.”

“Pendery has met and far exceeded the goals set by this board. In six months, we will be doing this again with at least two new board members,” Johnson said. “Until you have sat on this board, you don’t have any understanding of what we go through – personal attacks and professional attacks. I don’t know anybody more qualified to lead this board.”