Initial steps are being taken toward negotiating a contract between Jesse Register and Metro Nashville Public Schools, and talks aren’t expected to be put on hold for the holidays.
The school board’s next regular meeting — an opportunity for a contract to be approved by the board — is scheduled for Jan. 13, a date board chair David Fox said he is keeping in mind as the process begins. There may even be cause to call a special board meeting earlier than Jan. 13, depending on how quickly an agreement can be reached.
“It’s not a terribly complex arrangement,” Fox said. “I expect that we’ll be able to reach some sort of compromise agreement here before too long.”
Register told The City Paper that he’s eager to begin work in Nashville, and that he believes a contract can be negotiated in the next week or two. A job offer for Register is also contingent on background checks and a school board visit to his former school district.
Nashville’s Board of Education, in a seven-to-two vote over the weekend, decided to begin negotiations with Register, who worked for 10 years as superintendent of Chattanooga’s Hamilton County Schools before stepping down in 2006. Fox — along with attorneys from Metro’s Legal Department and search firm consultant Bill Attea — will work on the contract with Register.
Register’s initial contract request is for a salary of $275,000, plus a $10,000 individual health insurance plan. The salary of former Director of Schools Pedro Garcia was $218,000 at the time of Garcia’s resignation, plus benefits, for a total package worth of about $250,000.
At the board’s request, Fox will ask Register to consider a total salary and benefits package close to Garcia’s $250,000 range, particularly in light of the current economic situation facing the district. Board members are also interested in negotiating a contract clause that releases the board from buying out Register’s contract in the event of a state takeover.
The board motions authorizing Fox to negotiate a contract did not include reference to the length of Register’s contract. While Mayor Karl Dean and others in the community have made public their desire to see short-term contract negotiated, Fox has noted that the school board did not discuss this point when voting to begin negotiations.
Furthermore, Fox said Monday that he thinks a short-term contract for Register would be a bad idea.
“If we wanted someone to be just a placeholder, I wouldn’t care. But Dr. Register is not a placeholder,” Fox said. “He’s got to have the authority that comes from being seen as a permanent superintendent.”
Concerns about the length of Register’s contract stem from uncertainty as to whether the district, as a whole, will continue to fail school performance benchmarks mandated by federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) guidelines, and advance to Restructuring II status this August.
The move to Restructuring II would give the state Department of Education the legal right to remove the current director of schools, as well as any individual board members. Restructuring II might also give the DOE the option of appointing Dean as trustee of Metro schools, a possibility Dean has said he is actively preparing for.
If a governance change resulted in removal of the director, the school district would be responsible for buying out that director’s contract, unless the contract specifies otherwise.