Tulsa’s next superintendent got a three-year contract worth up to $855,000 in base salary and bonuses alone on Wednesday.
At a special meeting that lasted nearly four hours, the school board voted 6-0 to approve Deborah Gist’s employment contract. But board member Gary Percefull left the meeting 15 minutes before the vote was taken.
“I can’t speak for him,” Board President Lana Turner-Addison said of Percefull, who did not return the Tulsa World’s calls seeking comment. “My primary concern was going through the contract with our board attorney present. Everybody had an opportunity to speak because it is the most important duty of the board. I’m not going to read anything into it.”
Other board members declined to comment on Percefull’s absence from the vote.
Suzanne Schreiber said, “I think that’s his personal choice.”
Gist’s employment contract has been under negotiation for almost two months. It begins July 1 and runs through June 14, 2018.
On Feb. 9, the school board voted unanimously to begin contract negotiations with Gist, a Tulsa native who is currently Rhode Island’s education commissioner.
On March 2, the school board approved a consulting agreement that made her an independent contractor for Tulsa Public Schools through June 30, as she works in a transitional capacity with retiring Superintendent Keith Ballard.
Under that deal, Gist is being paid $775 for each 8-hour working day, with a proportionate amount of that rate to be paid for shorter working days. That pay rate was based on a calculation of the daily pay rate of Ballard’s $175,000 base salary.
“Attracting a qualified leader requires a benefits and compensation package that is aligned with our vision and commitment to student success. As a result, we have come up with a salary and benefits package that is commensurate with Dr. Gist’s experience,” Turner-Addison said after the special meeting concluded at 10:10 p.m.
Superintendents’ compensation packages typically include a base salary, some form of retirement fund payment, and allowances or actual expense reimbursement for car, cellphone and insurance. Also common these days are performance and/or retention bonuses.
Gist’s contract includes a base salary of $235,000, with increases possible in the second and third years, depending on increases for other district employees.
Her compensation package also includes a tax sheltered annuity contribution of $25,000, an annual auto and cellphone allowance of $18,000, and a taxable expense account of $18,000.
It also provides $25,000 for relocation expenses, an annual performance bonus of up to $25,000, plus a retention bonus of $75,000 if she finishes the full three years of the contract.
By comparison, Ballard’s final employment contract includes $174,500 base salary, a tax sheltered annuity contribution of $51,000, an annual auto and cellphone allowance of $17,220 and an expense account of $12,000. He also has received $25,000 annual performance bonuses and stands to receive a $70,000 retention bonus if he remains on the job through the final day of his contract, June 30.
Superintendents also receive group life insurance and medical, vision and dental benefits, plus the district pays their full retirement contribution to the state’s retirement system for public school educators.
Gist, who graduated from Tulsa’s Memorial High School, has had a six-year tenure as Rhode Island’s education commissioner. After earning her bachelor’s degree from the University of Oklahoma, she taught for eight years in Texas and Florida. From 2004 to 2007, she served as the state education officer for the District of Columbia before becoming D.C.’s first state superintendent, a post she held for two years.
Her resume also includes two master’s degrees, one from the University of South Florida and the other from Harvard University, as well as a doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania.
Gist could not be reached for comment Wednesday night.