BOE, McClung swap offers, counteroffers
By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
The Escambia County Board of Education and superintendent-selectee Michele M. McClung have swapped offers and counter offers this week as negotiations continued to determine whether McClung would be the replacement for current Superintendent of Education John Knott, whose extended contract expires August 31.
BOE Chair Cindy Jackson said she hoped that the board and McClung who has served as director of teaching, learning and assessment for Mobile County Schools since 2018, can reach an agreement. But, she admitted, her confidence level isn’t as high as it once was.
“I really don’t know,” Jackson said of the probability that the BOE would come to terms with the woman it selected out of 32 applicants. “Her lawyer sent us a proposal of a contract, and we (Jackson and BOE attorney Broox Garrett) made some changes and sent it back. The board did not like all the changes we made; they wanted more, so we met Friday (August 6) and did some adjustments to the contracts and sent it to her attorney. We are waiting on her, or her attorney’s, response.”
Voices were reportedly raised during the meeting, as one group backed the chair and the other opposed her.
District 6 BOE member David Nolin said he had little to say, at least on the record, about the situation or the apparent dissension among board members.
“I think we’ll have a superintendent by the end of August, and I think it will be her,” Nolin said of McClung. “We’ve gone about as far as we can go. We’re waiting on a response from her lawyer. As far as all that conflict on Friday, I’m an ex-football coach, so I’ve been through all that before.”
The school board’s initial offer included a base salary of $135,000. It required the school superintendent to live within Escambia County or to move here within 60 days of accepting the offer.
McClung wanted extra time to move from her Mobile County home, as well as a $500 housing allowance for the duration of her employment. She also wanted 15 vacation days instead of 10, but BOE policy allows for only 10 days of vacation for 12-month employees.
There was also a clause in the original agreement that called for McClung to pay the county back three months’ salary if she were to leave the job after accepting it.
Board members agreed to extend the relocation date to 120 days (about four months), with the $500 housing allowance for that time only.
“The impression our lawyer got from her (after the initial offer) was, there wouldn’t be any problem with her signing the contract,” Jackson said. “Then, on Tuesday, we got a response back from her attorney with quite a few changes to the contract.”
Loumeek White, in the first year of his first six-year term as District 5 BOE member, also felt that things would be worked out, as far as the superintendent matter goes. He would not speak on the record about the apparent discord among the board.
“I hope we’ll get it worked out this week,” he said of McClung’s contract. “Everything should be fine; I feel sure it will.”
District 7 board member Coleman Wallace also opted not to discuss the riff between board members.
“I’m reluctant to say anything because I don’t want anything to go to press that might not represent what’s actually happening,” Wallace said. “That would be presumptive of me. Things are a little sensitive right now, and the less said about it, the better.”
One of the complaints aimed at Jackson was that McClung was first invited, then “uninvited” to attend the annual teacher’s institute that is held prior to the start of a new term.
Jackson agreed that the invitation was rescinded but said she didn’t make the decision to do so. Instead, it came from Garrett, the board’s legal counsel.
“The board attorney reached out to me and said that, as much as he hated to do this, I needed to contact her and tell her that since we’re in the negotiation phase and she didn’t have a signed contract, if would probably be best if she did not come,” Jackson explained.