Friday, May 07, 2010

TOP STORY > >Hopson: I’m ready

Leader staff writer

Late Friday, contract negotiations were drawing to a close for the new superintendent of Pulaski County Special School District.

“It is being finalized today,” said Charles Hopson, who is set to assume the reins of the district on July 1. “The contract is now back with the board.”

The school board approved the tentative agreement at a special meeting on Wednesday, after more than two hours of discussion in a closed session.

As part of the transition to the new post, Hopson plans to be in the district most of the coming week, again in late May and back again in June.

“After June 18, I’ll be in Little Rock pretty much permanently based. We’re doing this in stages to help it be a seamless transition.”

As chief of the third-largest school district in the state, Hopson will be paid $205,000 annually. His contract is for three years with an automatic one-year extension annually unless opposed by the board.

Annual raises will match the highest percentage granted any employee group for a given year, in addition to the yearly step increase for administrators.

Hopson said that the last aspect of the contract to be worked out is in regard to the terms for termination.

“That is always a bit controversial,” Hopson said.

The proposed contract gives the board the right “with good cause” to terminate Hopson’s employment and enumerates specific conditions for termination. The contract also gives the board the authority to terminate Hopson’s contract “without cause.” In that event, the superintendent would be paid salary and benefits for the remaining time in his contract or for 18 months, whichever is less.

At Hopson’s request, the contract stipulates that within 60 days of his start date, and each year thereafter, he and the board will meet to develop a set of goals and priorities. His annual performance evaluations will be based on how well he meets those goals.

The superintendent’s benefits package would include 21 days of vacation annually, reimbursement of travel expenses, a yearly $10,000 annuity payment, monthly contributions to the state teachers’ retirement program, an annual $2,400 expense account, payment of professional and civic organization dues, and disability insurance, as well as dental and medical insurance for him and his family and a life insurance policy.

In addition, Hopson will be provided a vehicle, for which the district will pay all maintenance and insurance expenses. He will be issued a gasoline credit card for personal and professional use. To cover the cost of cell phone and district-related computer and technology needs, Hopson will receive a monthly $300 communications and technology allowance.

Moving expenses for Hopson and his family for up to $25,000 would be paid for by the district. Hopson currently lives in
Portland, Ore., where he is a deputy superintendent of public schools.

He is from Prescott and worked for several years in Arkansas public schools, including the Pulaski County Special School District, as a teacher and principal before relocating to Oregon 20 years ago.