2015-12-23 / Front Page

Extension for School Chief

By Barry Bridges

According to several members of the Newport School Committee, consensus has been reached on a contract extension for Superintendent Colleen Jermain that will run through June 30, 2018.

Details have also been finalized for new employment agreements for around 15 non-union school administrators who are not in a collective bargaining unit.

School Committee Chair Jo Eva Gaines and Vice Chair David Hanos explained that the terms were approved with a 6-1 vote at a special meeting on the morning of Monday, Dec. 21, and the district’s legal counsel will now prepare the appropriate documents for ratification when the committee convenes in January.

The superintendent and administrator contracts will provide for two percent annual pay increases, effective from Jan. 1, 2016, with few other changes to current provisions, said Gaines. Jermain’s present salary is $156,550.

Speaking with Newport This Week after Monday’s session, committee member David Carlin said that he cast the dissenting vote. He questioned the need to address the superintendent’s employment at this time. “It’s not appropriate to be conducting this type of business when there is still a year left on her current contract and it will be binding on the next School Committee elected in 2016,” he commented.

But notwithstanding the fact that time remains under Jermain’s three-year agreement that began in January of 2014, Hanos said in a phone conversation that the committee wanted to ensure that the current school leadership remains in place and felt that the time was right to get an extension in place.

“Right now we feel like we’re going in the right direction with a whole lot of positive indicators. Our leadership team has a strong foundation, and we felt it was prudent to go ahead and do it,” said Hanos. “We all have the same goal, to improve the educational system of Newport.”

“I know that the administration may have some friction with teachers after the recent contract negotiations, and I have heard and understand those concerns, but at the end of the day you have to look at the entire system,” he continued. “[Jermain] understands what our expectations are, and we need stability and vision at the top.”

Gaines was supportive of Hanos’ comments on progress in the district and was pragmatic about the efforts to retain the superintendent in Newport. “By law and by her [employment] contract, the superintendent is evaluated annually, and as part of that process we offered an extension. There was no reason not to do it now.”

Carlin also objected to the meeting being scheduled for a Monday morning, which he said conflicted with the spirit of the committee’s recent vote to include time for public comments at every session. “Considering that we were spending millions of dollars, it was a disservice to the taxpayer and totally disrespectful to the public,” he said.

In a released statement, he wrote that “all meetings of the Newport School Committee, unless classified as ‘emergency’ or otherwise absolutely essential, should be held at a time that is convenient for citizen participation…. For a committee that has something of a reputation for denying public comment, why would we ever want to schedule a meeting where public comment should be encouraged and welcomed at 9:00 a.m.?”

Gaines and Hanos rejected the premise that the scheduling was inappropriate, especially considering the time of year.

“School committee members dedicate a lot of their personal time to this job, so when they ask for a morning meeting so that they can do things for their families, it is fair to consider it,” said Gaines. Both she and Hanos suggested that the holiday season and winter school break provided the public with more weekday morning flexibility.

Hanos added that it was no one’s intention to suppress public participation. “In fact, I wish more people had been there, to hear all that was discussed. The meeting was lengthy, and there were a lot of questions asked of our legal counsel as we went over the contracts.”

Along with the superintendent’s extension, in January the committee will also give final consideration to agreements for over a dozen school employees whose individual contracts concluded on June 30, 2015. They cover roles such as the assistant superintendent, school principals and assistant principals, the directors of human resources and administrative services, and the student attendance facilitator. Current salaries for these positions run from $52,000 to $114,000, with six, including the school principals, commanding six figures. The new two-year administrator packages will run retroactively from the expiration date and go through June 30, 2017.

Return to top