After two weeks of contract negotiations, Dr. Martha Liddell finally signed the dotted line last Monday, agreeing to a three-year commitment as superintendent of the Columbus Municipal School District.
Details of the 10-page contract were released to the Dispatch Wednesday following a Freedom of Information Act request.
Liddell’s base salary, plus supplemental pay, will total $150,000 this fiscal year, $159,970 the following year, and $173,017.33 for 2014-2015. As interim superintendent, Liddell earned $135,600 last year. The supplemental pay includes allowances for automobiles, housing and life insurance, among others.
Former superintendent Dr. Del Phillips’ salary topped out at $161,200, but his pay was reduced as a result of across-the-board budget cuts, leaving him at $154,400 by the time of his departure last June.
Liddell’s contract went into effect at the beginning of the month and will end June 30, 2015.
In addition to her base salary and supplemental pay, Liddell will receive a performance-based incentive bonus each year of $1,710 per school which meets its growth status, as determined by the Mississippi Department of Education’s annual accountability report. The bonus is contingent upon state-funded teacher pay raises being granted by the state Legislature for the qualifying year.
The district, as a whole, has not met growth status for the past three years. Of the district’s seven schools, only one — Sale Elementary International Studies Magnet School — met growth status last year. Five schools met growth status in 2009-2010 and three met growth status in 2008-2009.
In order to meet growth status, a school must demonstrate, through state test scores, that its students met or exceeded performance expectations — a set of academic benchmarks derived from the previous two years’ data.
Liddell’s contract stipulates at the beginning of each school year she submit a statement of district and personal professional goals and objectives for the upcoming year.
The board of trustees has the right to conduct a performance evaluation by Jan. 31 of each year.
The new superintendent of the Tupelo Public School District, former Amory School District Superintendent Hubert Gearl Loden, is currently the top earner in the state, signing a four-year contract in February for $182,000 per year. Previous Tupelo Superintendent Randy Shaver earned $177,000.
The Starkville School District’s new superintendent, Lewis Holloway, follows closely behind, earning $175,000 per year, compared with former superintendent Judy Couey, who was earning $130,000 at the time of her resignation.
The salaries of Loden and Holloway both outpace that of last year’s top earner, Jackson Public Schools Superintendent Jayne Sargent, who received $160,417.
Lowndes County School District Superintendent Lynn Wright, who was elected in November, received a starting salary of $117,500 per year. Previous LCSD Superintendent Mike Halford began at $84,000 and was earning $125,000 by the end of his eight-year tenure.
Elsewhere around the Golden Triangle, Oktibbeha County School District Superintendent James Covington earns $90,882, and West Point School District Superintendent Burnell McDonald receives $150,000 per year.
The DeSoto County Schools, which has nearly 32,000 students and is the largest district in the state, pays Superintendent Milton Kuykendall $152,268 per year. That district is currently ranked high-performing, based upon state accountability models.
Carmen K. Sisson is the former news editor at The Dispatch.