Residents speak up about administrator compensation

Jun. 03, 2014 @ 11:03 AM

Members of the Granville County Board of Education had plenty to think about when they went into closed session Monday night.

Before the meeting began, a crowd filled the boardroom, overflowed into the hallway and spilled out onto the steps of the administration building.

Six people signed up to speak — five of them about the special report received at the last board meeting that dealt with administrators’ compensation. Several speakers, their statements punctuated by applause and cheers from onlookers, spoke beyond the five minutes allotted to them.

Jeff Nelson — who introduced himself as a social science teacher, a parent, a resident and a taxpayer — said he was unsure about the truth of the allegations about bonuses and pay increases for administrators.

“But if there is a kernel of truth to them, as a teacher and parent and a taxpayer, I am concerned that our money was spent for narcissistic purposes,” he said.

Nelson said the issue has divided the community and destroyed the morale of the district's teachers.

Jeffrey Grigg, of Oxford, cited the school district’s mission to serve with excellence and integrity.

“As taxpayers, that’s what we expect,” he said.

He said it sounds like someone is lining their pockets with taxpayers’ money.

“I don’t know if it’s true, but if it is, I expect them to submit a resignation or pay the money back,” Grigg said.

Phyllis Stark, a mother of five and grandmother of six, applauded the school board members who insisting on digging into the matter — and took the others to task.

“I commend the five board members who had the guts to stand up to find out what’s going on,” she said. “The other two need to resign.”

Susan Hiscocks, of Bullock, agreed. She described how children are having to bring learning materials to school because funds are not provided to teachers to buy them.

A months-long review of administrator compensation began Feb. 19 and included accusations between board members and was punctuated by the defeat of two current board members in last month’s primary.

The report from Jill Wilson and Bryant Starrett of the law firm Brooks, Pierce, McLendon, Humphrey and Leonard showed Allan Jordan, an associate superintendent, went from compensation of $92,000 in 2007 to $172,000 currently with board minutes confirming one raise of $1,800.

The report states the board did not always take formal action to approve, amend or extend contracts of some administrators, and financial records of the school system showed payments made to administrators when there was no formal board action authorizing the payments.

The school board had voted on elements of the contracts, but school board minutes contain no references to the votes, according to the report.

Those at Monday's meeting felt some of the district's senior staff was overpaid, especially given the size of the school system.

“It’s absurd that a school district this size has an administrator who has the ability to be the second highest paid in the state,” Clarence Dale, of Henderson, said. “Something must be done about this expeditiously. Get this administrator out of here.”

According to a published listing of superintendents’ salaries, Tim Farley’s compensation in August 2013 – the start of the school year – was ninth-highest at $211,162. Superintendents which were higher led respective systems in Charlotte-Mecklenburg, Wake, Guilford, Cumberland, Johnston, Durham, Onslow and Dare.

Granville County has about 8,550 students. Dare has abut 4,900. Each of the others has no less than about 25,000.

Superintendent Tim Farley shared a prepared statement in which he said he and the board have operated with integrity and statements in the audit report have been distorted by media outlets.

He said if news organizations look at his contract and board minutes, they will see that his contract extensions in 2013 were voted on in open meetings and that all of his contracts and extensions have been signed by two board members.

In another response to the controversy about board activities, Chairwoman Brenda Dickerson-Daniel read a prepared statement. She said board member Patrick Cox had stated publicly that she and three other board members had met illegally in November 2013 “for the purpose of electing me chairperson so I could be easily re-elected in May 2014.”

She added Cox also alleged five board members had voted to approve a forensic audit of policies related to compensation of senior staff members as a “politically motivated effort to facilitate the re-election of three of us.”

She pointed out that Cox has failed to produce any evidence regarding his accusations.

“Tonight I challenge you once again, Rev. Cox, to prove your accusations of illegal activity and political showmanship,” she said, reading from the statement.

Otherwise, Dickerson-Daniel said he should apologize to her and the other board members he had accused and provide a statement to the press.

Cox did not respond during the meeting.

A large contingent of staff members and residents waited for more than two-and-a-half hours while the board met in closed session. When the board returned to open session, it immediately adjourned.

Dickerson-Daniel said she had no further comment at this time.

Contact the writer at dirvine@hendersondispatch.com.