School Board approves superintendent contract for Jones in 6-1 vote

The Clark County School Board voted 6-1 Thursday to give Colorado Education Commissioner Dwight Jones an annual compensation package worth $358,000 to lead the Clark County School District for the next four years.

To ease his transition from Colorado to Las Vegas, Jones also may get free housing for his first six months in town. The board also voted 6-1 to have the Public Education Foundation, which raises money for the district, set up a fund to collect as much as $30,000, or $5,000 a month, for Jones' transitional housing.

School Board member Larry Mason was the lone dissenter in opposing both the contract and the transitional housing fund as "suspect."

Ruben Murillo, president of the Clark County Education Association, which represents district teachers, called the housing deal "absolutely wrong" because it sends the message that Jones works for the donors and not for the public.

Murillo also said there would have been outrage if the district's employee unions had offered to pick up Jones' housing costs.

Jones has been tapped as the successor for retiring Superintendent Walt Rulffes. Jones expects to take charge of the nation's fifth-largest public school system in December.

Several board members also voiced reservations about the housing fund, but they want Jones in Las Vegas as soon as possible so he can prepare for the legislative session in February.

"We're doing this because of the sense of urgency," said School Board member Deanna Wright. "We have to make sure there are no potholes" in the road.

School Board member Chris Garvey noted that her grandmother received free room and board when she worked as a small-town teacher.

The School Board also promised to post the names of those who donate to the superintendent's housing fund. Under the arrangement, the district would receive the donations from the foundation and reimburse Jones for his housing expenses. Because the money would be considered a gift, Jones would have to pay taxes on the housing allowance, said School Board member Carolyn Edwards.

In a written statement, Jones said he appreciated the confidence of the board and was "eager to dive in and get going." Jones was in Utah on Thursday for a conference. His contract calls for him to start Dec. 1, but that is not a firm date. He has said he would like begin work by the second week of December.

As part of his contract, Jones will be reimbursed for four trips to Clark County prior to his start date. He also will get $1,000 a day for as many as eight working days prior to his official start.

His annual salary will be $270,000. Perks include $15,000 for moving expenses, $4,000 a year for work-related expenses, $700 a month for a car allowance and 31 days of vacation. Jones will have the option to be reimbursed for up to 15 days of unused vacation each year.

Jones, 48, also got a four-year commitment from the School Board, with the condition that it can terminate his contract at any time with 90 days notice. The board also would have to pay Jones a full year's salary and benefits, or as much as $427,500, to buy him out. He could sell back vacation time and as many as 60 days of unused sick time at termination.

He would not receive the severance package if he's fired for cause, such as committing a felony or refusing to follow orders.

Jones makes $223,680 a year in Colorado.

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 has a 7-year-old son, Landry, who they plan to enroll in a local public school. Jones is also supporting two children in college.

School Board members said they were satisfied that Jones' compensation was in line for a superintendent responsible for educating nearly 310,000 students. Board member Linda Young was critical of some of the details but felt it was time to "move on."

Rulffes would have made $307,632 this year if he had not reduced his contract by 20 percent because of hard economic times. School Board member Sheila Moulton said the superintendent of Washoe County makes $238,000.

Marzette Lewis, a community activist, urged the public to sympathize with Jones, who will be moving in winter. "You're hit with the snow," she said. "You're hit with the sleet."

Public speakers seemed more upset over the negotiation process than the details of the contract.

Ken Small, a School Board candidate who is challenging Edwards in District F, said the public was not given sufficient time to analyze the contract because it was not made available until minutes before the meeting.

Contact reporter James Haug at or 702-374-7917.