CLINTON — After first voting Tuesday to delay consideration of a contract for the East Feliciana Parish school system’s superintendent-elect, School Board members eventually reversed course, approved a contract and set an early starting date.
The board voted 10-1 on April 12 to hire Henderson Lewis Jr., of Violet, as the successor to Superintendent Douglas Beauchamp, who is retiring effective June 30.
Lewis is a St. Bernard Parish School Board member and director of academics and instructional technology for Algiers Charter Schools Association.
He has a doctorate in educational leadership from Mississippi State University.
Board President Michael Bradford said earlier on Tuesday that contract negotiations were finished Monday night and the contract would be added to the meeting agenda, but the board voted 6-5 on a substitute motion to put off final action.
Member Paul Kent called for the delay, saying he had not had time to study the proposed three-year contract because he had just received it.
“We still have some time. There are some questions to be answered in this,” Kent said.
Kent was joined by Melvin Hollins, Ben Cupit, Debra Spurlock Haynes, Broderick Brooks and Richard Terrell on the vote to delay, while Olivia Harris, Beth Dawson, Mitch Harrell, Bradford and Rufus Nesbitt opposed the delay.
Member Rhonda Matthews was absent.
The discussion continued, however, with Cupit asking whether some provisions of the contract would be negated by bills the state Legislature has passed at the urging of Gov. Bobby Jindal.
Attorney Bob Hammonds said the law does not take effect until July 1, and the provisions about superintendents’ contracts would not
apply if the board acted before July 1.
“There’s a broad misunderstanding of how far-reaching this is,” Hammonds said of Act 1 of the current session.
After more discussion that resulted in Lewis accepting several changes suggested by board members, the board voted unanimously to approve the contract and, in a separate vote, authorized him to begin work on a consulting basis for several days in May and for the entire month of June.
“I wake up at 4:30 in the morning thinking about planning for East Feliciana Parish schools,” Lewis said.
The contract calls for Lewis to be paid a $128,000 base salary, with possible 2 percent increases beginning in 2013-14, a $500 per month payment for in-parish travel and up to $5,000 in relocation expenses.
The 2 percent raises would not be granted, however, if the board freezes other employees’ annual raises because of financial problems.
He also could earn $2,000 each for meeting three specific performance objectives tied to academic growth and budgeting, but Haynes pushed to raise the level by which Lewis would get a $2,000 one-time payment if the district improved its performance score.
The contract originally set the level at an increase of one point during the first year and two points the second year, but Lewis agreed to set them at three and five points, respectively.
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