The Clark County School District's next superintendent would make $20,000 more a year than top school executives in New York and Los Angeles if the School Board approves a $270,000 salary offer for Colorado Education Commissioner Dwight Jones tonight.
The School Board also is considering making a five-year commitment to Jones, which might conflict with a state law that limits new superintendent contracts to four years. And the board will discuss giving Jones a contract that includes a severance package with a full year's salary and benefits.
Other perks that might be offered include a $10,000 moving allowance, up to four paid trips to Clark County before December, a car allowance of $700 a month, mileage reimbursement and 31 days of vacation time. That amount is seven days more than district administrators get.
Clark County School Board member Linda Young said she has not seen the contract. She was briefed on the negotiated terms by the board's attorneys from the Clark County district attorney's office. The attorneys met with School Board members in small groups to avoid violating the state's open meeting law.
Young said she was doubtful whether the district could live up to the proposed terms because its funding is so uncertain. District officials expect shortfalls in state aid and declines in property tax revenues next year.
"I certainly want to welcome Mr. Jones if he comes here, but I want him to know we're in dire financial straits," Young said. "And I hope he understands that we're not trying to demean his financial support in any way, but we're trying to support our children and their families."
Jones, who was in Salt Lake City for a conference on Wednesday, declined to comment because talks remain open.
Jones said he would like to start working in Clark County by the second week of December. If a contract is approved, he would succeed retiring Superintendent Walt Rulffes as leader of the nation's fifth-largest school district with nearly 310,000 students.
Jones makes $223,680 in Colorado. His family income might decline with a move to Las Vegas because his wife, Jenifer Jones , earns $110,000 as an administrator for Denver Public Schools. He said his wife would not seek a district job.
The couple have a 7-year-old son, Landry, who would enroll in a local public school. Jones also supports two older children in college.
Joel Klein, chancellor of the New York City Department of Education, and Ramon Cortines, superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, each earn base salaries of $250,000, said spokesmen from the nation's two largest districts. New York enrolls 1.1 million students. The Los Angeles district has 678,441 students.
Alberto Carvalho, superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools, is the highest-paid superintendent among the nation's five largest school systems, earning $275,000 in a district with 333,224 students, a spokesman said. Ron Huberman, chief executive officer of Chicago Public Schools, earns $230,000 in a district with 409,279 students, according to the Chicago district's website.
Rulffes would have made $307,632 this year if he had not reduced his contract by 20 percent because of hard economic times.
Under Nevada Revised Statute 391.110, the initial contract for a new superintendent is not to exceed four years. That is a safeguard for the state's pension system because state employees do not become vested in the Public Employees Retirement System until completing five years.
Young said she was told that Jones wants a five-year commitment because he will be uprooting his family.
She said it was her understanding that "it wouldn't be a hard five-year contract." The board would be able to end the contract with 90-days notice but would have to pay Jones one year of salary and benefits.
Young said she was confused by the proposed terms.
"If he's fired for a just cause, does he still get that?" Young asked. "My question is have we ever had a five-year contract for a superintendent before? Would we not be setting a precedent?"
Under Rulffes' contract, he is not entitled to severance pay. He is only paid through the last day of his employment.
Young said it was her understanding that Jones was negotiating for more money for moving expenses because he thought $10,000 was not enough. She said that constituents were outraged by the $700 monthly vehicle allowance but that the benefit was comparable with what Rulffes receives.
Young was the only board member who voted against Jones' selection. She said she thought the process was rushed as the board picked Jones two weeks after his name was announced by the search firm of McPherson & Jacobson.
Young said she was disclosing the proposed contract terms for the sake of transparency. "I want as many people to know what I know and give me feedback. My job is to represent them."
School Board President Terri Janison and Vice President Carolyn Edwards did not return calls Wednesday.
As of Wednesday night, supporting agenda material for the board's discussion of the contract had not been not posted online.
The Review-Journal, the Nevada Policy Research Institute and Kevinn Donovan, a parent and Assembly candidate, have been asking the district for contract information since at least Monday, but no details were released until Young spoke Wednesday.
Donovan called the terms outlandish and said he thinks the board wants to "ram" the contract "down our throats" with minimum public disclosure.
Contact reporter James Haug at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-374-7917.