For the second year in a row, contract negotiations between the Iowa City school board and Superintendent Stephen Murley have taken longer than normal.
The delay was a big enough issue last year – Murley and the board reached an agreement in December, several months later than what was typical – that a provision was put in Murley’s contract saying his salary should be renegotiated by June 1 each year, unless he and the board agree to a different date.
Instead of having the matter settled before summer break this year, the board Monday night held its second closed session in a month on Murley’s contract.
Board President Marla Swesey and Murley said the prolonged process is the result of a busy school board schedule in the spring and summer, and not a dispute over money.
Board members were consumed by the facilities plan discussion, had busy personal schedules and then it got into campaign season for Tuesday’s school board election, Swesey said.
“We just have been swamped,” she said.
She hopes to hold a vote on Murley’s contract before the school board’s next scheduled meeting Sept. 24, which means a special meeting would be required. That date is when up to three new school board members will be sworn in following Tuesday’s school board election.
Murley said having a new board vote on the contract was not a big concern of his, but he would prefer an agreement be reached soon.
“There’s more certainty for everybody when it’s done sooner rather than later, but at the same time, we’ve had a lot on our plate this past year,” he said, adding he is not worried about his job security.
Last December, Murley and the board agreed to a new three-year contract that paid the superintendent a base salary of $192,000 for the year running July 1, 2012, through June 30, 2013.
The contract stipulates Murley’s salary and other financial benefits, including $25,000 toward a supplemental retirement plan and a $7,150 annual vehicle allowance, are to be renegotiated annually.
No one ever explained why it took until December to reach a deal last year even though the superintendent’s contract typically is settled in the summer. But the agreement sets a May 1 deadline for Murley’s evaluation and June 1 for the salary to be renegotiated.
Swesey and Murley said they agreed to go past the June 1 date this year.
According to school board agendas, closed sessions were held four times this spring to evaluate Murley. The first agenda to mention a discussion of the superintendent’s contract was for an Aug. 13 meeting.
The past couple of years, some board members have questioned Murley’s use of vacation and whether he was counting the hours accurately. Murley’s current contract says he was to be paid for 41 unused days and could carry forward to the next year 20 days without board approval.
Also last year Murley was revealed as a candidate for the superintendent job in the Omaha, Neb., school district just days after he agreed to his new contract. He did not tell Iowa City school board members of his candidacy during contract negotiations. He did not get the Omaha job.