In separate votes during a special meeting Tuesday, the Washington County Board of Education unanimously approved the appointment and contract for the school system's next superintendent, Clayton M. Wilcox.
Wilcox's four-year contract, effective July 1, includes a $190,550 annual salary, according to the contract.
"I really just want to say thank you, but not just thank you to you as a board. Thank you to this community for opening its arms and saying that we would like you to be our next superintendent," Wilcox told the board after signing copies of his new contract at the central office off Commonwealth Avenue.
Wilcox said he believes the school system can go places that some, but not many people, have contemplated.
"But it will be built upon a rich legacy of success," said Wilcox, referring to former Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan's tenure. Morgan, who retired from the school system on Feb. 28, was named 2010 National Superintendent of the Year by the American Association of School Administrators.
"Management of this organization is no small task," school board member Donna Brightman said before the board voted on Wilcox's contract.
Washington County has a smaller public schools system than in Pinellas County, Fla., and Baton Rouge, La., both places where Wilcox previously served as superintendent.
The public schools system is Washington County's largest employer with approximately 3,000 employees. The system has more than 22,000 students and maintains 47 facilities, school system officials have said.
In choosing Wilcox, 55, of Westfield, N.J., to run the school system for the next four years, board members have referred to him as being upbeat and energetic and cited his experience in business and as a schools superintendent.
"I think he brings a level of enthusiasm to kind of rekindle the enthusiasm of the system and keep the momentum going that we had," Board Vice President W. Edward Forrest said after Tuesday's meeting.
"I think he'll be a leader not only in education, but a leader in our community," board member Paul Bailey said.
Board member Jacqueline Fischer said Wilcox has experience raising funds.
"Definitely, with the economic times ahead, we're going to have to tap every resource possible in the next few years to keep (programs) intact," Fischer said.
Brightman said the school system's composite budget is about $300 million.
While the school system is receiving more state funding going into the coming fiscal year, Chief Financial Officer Chris South has cautioned that the state is facing its own fiscal crisis and the school system could have its state funding cut in the future.
Doing the contract math
While Wilcox's base salary is higher than Morgan's, board President Wayne Ridenour said he thinks that Wilcox's overall contract is cheaper than Morgan's.
Morgan's annual base salary during her last contract was $182,905, but was $195,000 because she elected to roll her car allowance into her salary.
Although Wilcox said he will officially start the superintendent job on July 1, he expects to meet with some school system employees before then. His current deal with Scholastic Inc., where he is senior vice president for education and corporate relations, expires June 30, he said.
Brightman said she thinks Wilcox's contract sets a precedent for a fair and equitable compensation package by aligning it with the school board's agreement with administrators and supervisors.
Many of the benefits in Wilcox's contract mirror those set in that agreement, Ridenour said. Morgan's contract spelled out specific benefits, some of which were different from what other administrators had, he said.
For instance, the school system paid for 100 percent of Morgan's health insurance, Ridenour said. The school system will pay for 85 percent of Wilcox's, while he pays for 15 percent, just like other administrators and supervisors, Ridenour said.
Wilcox's contract calls for a $9,000 annual allowance for gas and routine vehicle maintenance. He may choose instead to increase his base salary by that amount.
Wilcox also must live in Washington County or the board can terminate the contract.
Wilcox said he hasn't yet found a home in the county.