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Future board members question timing of contract vote

The Farmington School Board approved a new contract for superintendent Brad Meeks Monday night. But most of the discussion focused not on whether Meeks deserved the new deal but on whether the right people were making the decision.

Two board members who will take office in January argued that they should get to weigh in on the contract, which will boost Meeks' base salary from $160,000 to $172,000 when it takes effect next September and to $180,000 by the time it has run its three-year course. Current board members said as the ones who have worked with Meeks and the ones who completed his evaluation earlier this year they are best qualified to make the decision on how much he should make.

Board members-elect Julie Singewald and Tim Burke both addressed the board Monday night. Neither had seen the contract they were discussing, but both asked the board to delay its decision.

"I'm disappointed that the three-year contract this board is approving tonight is completed in the twilight hours of half of this board," Singewald said.

Current board member Ann Manthey, one of three who will leave the board in January, agreed. She said that because the board members who will take office in January is the one that will work with Meeks during the term of the new contract, they should be the ones to approve it.

But Manthey was alone among current board members.

"This is the board that has worked with and has seen the job the superintendent has done," board member John Kampf said.

Other concerns

Timing wasn't the only concern raised by soon-to-be board members. Burke was upset the new contract was not available to the public -- or to future board members -- before it was approved Monday night. Burke asked board members to delay their decision until at least Dec. 16, when the board will interview candidates to replace departing board member Terry Donnelly, and to seek feedback from residents.

Board members said Monday it is not the district's policy to share contracts -- whether for the superintendent or any other employee or group -- before they have been approved.

The board voted 5-1 to approve the contract Monday.

Donnelly pointed out that despite concerns raised by Burke over the difficulty of getting an unredacted copy of Meeks' last contract there was little public outcry once the deal was made public.

"I don't think it's a burning issue in the minds of most of the constituents of the district," Donnelly said.