The Hillsborough County School Board is about to vote on extending superintendent Addison Davis’ contract until June 2027.
The deal they will consider Tuesday also allows 4% annual pay increases. But those raises are subject to board votes. They do not begin until July 2023. And they are to happen only if other administrators get raises as well.
The superintendent now earns $310,000. That compares to $350,000 and $370,000 for the new superintendents in Broward and Miami-Dade counties, which are larger. In the Pinellas County school district, which is roughly half the size of Hillsborough, incoming superintendent Kevin Hendrick will earn $290,000.
Since joining the district in 2020, Davis has “aggressively and successfully developed and implemented a number of initiatives that bring HCPS in line with 21st century expectations,” said his chief of communications, Tanya Arja.
These initiatives include “a remarkable two-year turnaround of the operational deficit, workforce development programs, ... expanded mental health supports for kids and families, and better alignment of academic curricula with state standards.”
Arja noted Davis arrived as schools were closing statewide for COVID-19.
School Board chairperson Nadia Combs said she supports extending Davis’ contract, which is set to expire in December 2023. “From my perspective, with so much chaos and uncertainty, it’s good to know that we have stability and he will be with us,” she said.
“There is a huge shortage of superintendents across the nation. We have someone who is innovative, who has come in with new ideas. We are facing a lot of challenges, and we want the community to know that there’s stability.”
District leaders hope to secure voter approval for a local-option property tax that would fund higher pay and stronger elective programs. The measure will be on the Aug. 23 ballot. If approved, it would increase tax bills by $1 for every $1,000 of assessed value, which works out to $225 for a $250,000 home with a $25,000 homestead exemption.
Despite praise from Combs, news of the contract was met with skepticism from two key employee groups.
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Johnny Bush, director of the Hillsborough Association of School Administrators, said his members want to hear more from the School Board about issues they raised in a 2021 anonymous survey that was highly critical of Davis’ management and communication styles.
Combs said Davis has made great improvements since the survey. He formed a principal advisory council and “he meets with them on a regular basis,” she said. “He meets with past leaders of the district. He has gone into the community. He has done the work as far as getting to know our district.”
Bush said he was encouraged when Davis agreed that, if voters in August approve the new property tax, administrators will share in the money. But, he said, “the board has to have more transparency around why they would want to extend the contract like that.”
The teachers union, meanwhile, says it will be hard to justify any pay raise for Davis as long as teachers are in limbo concerning their own salaries.
“If the board is going to give the superintendent a raise, the board should be giving the rest of our employees raises as well,” said Graham Picklesimer, executive director of the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association.
As for Combs’ remark about the superintendent shortage, Picklesimer said, “OK, let’s talk about the teacher shortage. Let’s talk about the bus driver shortage. We need to look at the people who have to work three jobs to make ends meet.”
With money tight, teachers and administrators were given one-year supplements in the last budget year instead of true raises. This happened because the district relied on federal COVID-19 relief funds, which cannot be used to meet ongoing expenses.
Bargaining is underway with teachers for the 2022-23 school year.
Administrators, meanwhile, received raises in recent years that averaged as high as 4.4% but in 2020-21 did not happen at all.
Davis’ original and new contracts both call for evaluations every September. In the last round, board members gave him mostly favorable reviews, with member Karen Perez giving Davis the harshest assessment.
The contract renewal, however, is not connected with the evaluation results, which are intended for feedback. The board can fire Davis for cause — meaning one of several specific acts of crime or wrongdoing — or without cause. If the dismissal is without cause, the proposed new contract calls for a payout equal to 20 weeks’ salary, plus all accrued vacation and annual sick leave.