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Schools superintendent applies for Tenn. position

March 03, 2001

Schools superintendent applies for Tenn. position



By ANDREW SCHOTZ

andrews@herald-mail.com

Washington County Schools Superintendent Herman G. Bartlett Jr. is one of 15 semifinalists for a superintendent's job about 20 miles south of Nashville, Tenn.

A search committee in the Williamson County school district in Franklin, Tenn., expects to narrow the contenders to four finalists and one alternate Monday, said Jean Keith, chairwoman of both the committee and the School Board.

Williamson County schools Communications Director Carol Birdsong said 44 people applied for the position.

The school district plans to interview finalists the week of March 26.

The list of semifinalists was released to the media because Tennessee law considers information public once it reaches the School Board.

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Gary Ray and Associates, a Cedar Rapids, Iowa, consulting firm overseeing the search, gave the school board a list of 11 finalists from outside the district and four from within the district on Wednesday. The Tennessean, a local newspaper, listed them in an article Thursday.

Washington County Board of Education members contacted Friday evening did not know Bartlett was seeking the Tennessee job.

"I'm not aware of this issue," said board member Edward Forrest, who declined to comment.

"I'm unfamiliar with the information," said board member Roxanne Ober.

Board member Doris Nipps also had no comment.

Board member Mary Wilfong said she was surprised by the news. She surmised that Bartlett may be testing the employment waters without a yearning to go elsewhere.

It's too early to think about a possible replacement, but the topic of Bartlett's Tennessee application may come up at the next board meeting, Wilfong said.

His four-year contract expires on June 30, 2002. Board members have said it's too early for them to consider renewing it.

Board members Bernadette Wagner, Paul Bailey and J. Herbert Hardin could not be reached for comment.

Bartlett did not respond to two messages left at the district office and two messages left at his home Friday afternoon and evening.

The Tennessee position currently pays $101,350.

Bartlett, who took over the helm of Washington County's school system in October 1997, is paid $105,000 a year, according to a district list of central office salaries. On his Williamson County application, Bartlett listed his salary as $129,000.

Told of the apparent discrepancy, Keith, the school board chair in Williamson County, said, "That's interesting. We'll have to check that. ... Unless maybe he added in his benefits, but I doubt a benefits package is that much money. ... That's a big difference."

She said candidates were asked to report their base salary.

Ray, the consultant, wasn't aware of the discrepancy, but said it was insignificant.

"Some people, when they fill out applications - it's always been kind of a test if they list all their benefits. ... I don't think that's going to be an issue with us," he said.

The most important thing, Ray said, is that Bartlett comes from a district that's about the same size as Williamson County's.

Bartlett's salary was the highest one listed among the 15 Williamson County semifinalists, if the figure he submitted is used.

A superintendent from Evansville, Ind., has a listed salary of $118,000.

The superintendent of the Kenosha (Wisconsin) Unified School District has the next highest salary on the list, earning $117,000.

In a phone interview, Michael Johnson, the Kenosha superintendent, said he used base salary, without benefits, on his Williamson County application. He suggested that if Washington County set up an annuity fund for Bartlett, separate from his salary, it might account for the discrepancy on Bartlett's application.

Wilfong did not know if Bartlett receives a separate annuity or similar compensation.

The superintendent's salary is a hot issue in Williamson County, where schools are funded by the county commission, Keith said. The school board wants to raise the current salary, $101,350, to between $120,000 and $130,000.

It is also pushing for a separate fund for travel, moving expenses and similar extras of about $10,000, she said.

The county commission narrowly defeated the proposal last fall.

"They said, 'When you have the candidates, come back,' " Keith said.

Two other figures on Bartlett's application do not match official Washington County figures.

On his application, Bartlett listed the Washington County budget as $150 million and school enrollment as 21,000.

This year's operating budget is $118.4 million, and the School Board has proposed a $127.4 million operating budget for next year.

Ober said a memo written by Dennis McGee, the school board's director of facilities management, puts the county enrollment at 19,411 as of Sept. 29, 2000.

Wilfong and Ober said they could not explain the differences.

The Tennessee district where Bartlett has applied has nearly 20,000 students, 30 schools and a budget of about $109 million.

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