A study from the Mississippi School Board Association showed the salary scale within the Clarksdale Municipal School District is disproportionate.
Superintendent Dr. Earl Joe Nelson said the study showed administrators, both in the central office and some principals, are overpaid while teachers are underpaid. The board will be meeting June 15 to adjust the salary scale.
However, with the current fiscal year set to end June 30, Nelson said contracts need to be issued immediately to make sure current employees are coming back for the 2021-22 school year.
The board approved by a 3-2 margin to approve hires for teachers and assistant teachers based on the 2020-21 salary scale at a special meeting Monday afternoon. The vote was also to hire administrators at the pay they were earning during the 2020-21 school year.
Board president Delores Harris and board members Joan Morris and Sandy Stillions voted to approve the measure. Board members Zedric Clayton and LaFiesta Roland opposed.
New contracts could be issued to teachers, assistant teachers and administrators after the June 15 board meeting.
“Legally, we can come back and reissue contracts that are new after you make a decision,” Nelson said. “But if we wait until the 15th, it’s going to push us into a new contractual year and it’s going to open up some other cans of worms for our district. We won’t be able to move forward successfully if we wait until that week.”
Clayton took issue with the fact that the board approved creating a position for a human resources director that could pay $72,000 a year before adjusting the salary scale.
“At this point, to be honest with you, I’m blind,” Nelson said. “I don’t know what money we do have in the district. I know more about federal dollars than I do about district dollars.”
Nelson did say he knew the CMSD had the money to hire a human resources director.
“So we’ve got money to hire for a $72,000 human resources director, but we do not know if we have money to give people who are already working their next step they are already due?” Clayton said.
Nelson said the director of support services position paid $80,000 a year. After Rodger Fullilove, who held the position, left the CMSD, he was not replaced.
“For instance, we don’t have a director of support services right now,” Nelson said. “I’m the director of support services, so we have to replace that salary. We take that amount we use for director of support services and pay a human resource person, the money just washes.”
Clayton said that does not add up when salaries are being frozen.
“If the money was there for this $80,000 job, why are we freezing other people from getting their raises if the money was there already? Clayton said. “You could have easily used that money for something else.”
Nelson pointed to the district’s current failure and a need to make changes.
“Let me put it in another context for you,” Nelson said. “We’re functioning as an F district. We’re functioning with an F attitude. We’re functioning right now with F services. We had graduation rated an F. We had Higgins Middle School promotional services. It was an F. And so, in order to get A services, we’ve got to have A people to do it. We’re doing a lot of making excuses to be an A. They don’t do that in an A system.”
“A systems also look at the budget before we add positions,” Clayton replied.
“I’ve been working blind since I’ve been here with a budget,” said Nelson in response. “You read the paper, too. I’ve been working blind.”
“How are you working blind when you have a business manager?” replied Clayton, adding Nelson should have asked the business manager if the district could afford to hire a human resources director. “That doesn’t make sense to me.”
“These board meetings are making me work blind because people are watching this,” said Nelson back to Clayton.
Morris provided her thoughts after Nelson and Clayton went back and forth.
“With us an F school district, how can we say we should give raises to anybody?” Morris said. “But yet, we do need this position, which can be funded, which will help everybody in the district. I understand what you’re saying, but we have seen that in some positions, some people are maybe overpaid and some positions are not.”
Harris said the goal is not to stop employees from getting pay increases, but to balance the salary scale.
“We found that our salaries were disproportionate,” Harris said. “So before we can even consider, and this was discussed last week, doing a raise, we’re going to look at it and try to fix the salaries so it would be balanced.”
Clayton still said the district should not commit to hiring a human resources director because there is still the question if the funds are available.
“We never said that we weren’t going to give raises, Stillions said. “What we said is we need to get them back in scale. That’s all we said. We know we’ve got the money to pay them. We know we have the money in the district to pay this position. You’re comparing apples and oranges.”
Nelson said he met with assistant superintendent Dr. Shanta Rhodes, who also oversees federal programs, and business manager Kamilah Woods-Parris and they agreed the CMSD could afford a human resources director.
Nelson and Clayton continued to disagree back and forth.
“You know a lot about how to run a school better than I do,” said Nelson to Clayton.
“This ain’t my first rodeo,” Clayton replied.
Rhodes said only district dollars could pay for the human resources director. However, she said federal dollars can pay for a new director of support services.
Nelson once again said the district had the funds to pay for a human resource director since the director of support services position is vacant.
“If Dr. Rhodes had never come on, we would have walked out of here believing that we could put this position in ESSER 2,” Clayton said. “Why didn’t you know that option didn’t exist? You said you met with them. This is going to come back to bite us.”
Harris said there was a human resources director position under former superintendent Dennis Dupree, but it was dissolved.
“We were needing to cut funds, so we reevaluated all of the positions,” Woods-Parris said.
“For those people that picked up additional duties, there were a few supplements, but not the whole salary.”
Woods-Parris said that was a small amount of the salary the previous director of human resources made.
Woods-Parris resigned from the CMSD herself effective at the end of the fiscal year. The board approved allowing Nelson to bring in a consultant to help with the transition from Woods-Parris to the next business manager.