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July 03, 2014 7:32 am

School superintendent’s contract renewed for $160,000 annually

Written by Tessa Schweigert

Superintendent Kevin Mitchell will continue to lead hundreds of employees and students in Park County School District No. 1 for the coming year.

A one-year contract approved by the school board took effect Tuesday and includes an 8 percent salary increase.

The school board on June 10 unanimously approved Mitchell’s contract with an annual salary of $160,000. He was being paid $147,085.

Mitchell has “tremendous knowledge in education,” said Rob McCray, school board chairman, in an email to the Tribune.

“Mr. Mitchell is an educational leader in Powell, in the (Big Horn) Basin and in the state,” McCray said. “Any time we are at meetings or conferences, he is the one other superintendents seek out to get advice, opinions or history.”

Mitchell, 56, has served as superintendent for seven years in Powell and worked in education for 23 years in Wyoming.

In discussions with the board, Mitchell highlighted many achievements as examples of the district’s success, McCray said. Mitchell also discussed a figure he felt was an adequate increase.

“The board considered a lot of factors before deciding on this contract amount,” McCray said.

Trustees compared data from six to eight Wyoming school districts — those directly above and below Park County School District No. 1’s enrollment, McCray said.

“Superintendents’ contracts are not necessarily easy to compare,”  McCray said. “Many, if not most districts, utilize other methods of compensation that aren’t considered salary. For example, there are superintendents that receive annuities, vehicle allowances, housing allowances, other retirement benefits, etc. Park 1 does not do that.”

The average superintendent in Wyoming earned $132,989 in the 2012-13 school year — the most recent year for which data is available, according to the Wyoming Department of Education. That figure doesn’t include other forms of compensation, such as housing allowances.

“Good superintendents are in demand,” McCray said. “We have one of the very best, and want to keep him.”

For benefits such as life and medical insurance, Mitchell receives the same benefits as the district’s other administrative and professional employees with 12-month contracts. He doesn’t receive any additional compensation or benefits as superintendent.

Under the contract, Mitchell receives four weeks of vacation annually (20 work days) plus major holidays. He may accumulate a maximum of 40 vacation days.

If Mitchell voluntarily resigns before the contract expires without giving at least four months of notice, then he is required to pay the district for the days that he is not working as superintendent. That does not apply if he resigns due to a medical issue.

The district is required to pay the superintendent’s regular salary and provide health insurance coverage for four months if he is fired without cause. Those payments would cease upon new employment.

McCray said the school board chose a salary slightly higher than what Mitchell had requested.

“It is really hard to thank him for all he does for the district every day,” McCray said. “We hope he knows we do recognize it, however.”

McCray called Mitchell “a get-it-done kind of person.”

“If he sees issues that need to be addressed, he gets after it and makes sure it is taken care of,” McCray said. “And on top of that, he is kind and community-minded. He always says, ‘Do what’s best for kids.’”

McCray said Mitchell also is a great adviser to the school board, arranging other experts to advise the board on various issues, such as the Affordable Care Act.

He said Mitchell works hard to make sure employees are moving forward, along with Mary Jo Lewis, coordinator of business services.

McCray gave the example of employee salaries. In recent years, the Legislature hasn’t always provided an external cost adjustment to increase state employees’ salaries.

Mitchell and Lewis “worked hard to find a way our employees did not earn less money than the year before,” McCray said. “There were several schools that froze salaries and or didn’t allow advancement on the schedule, and their folks went backwards.”

While Mitchell is receiving a salary increase this year, so are other staff members, McCray said.

In the past, the superintendent’s contract was approved for two years.

“This year, after discussions between the board and Mr. Mitchell, it was decided to only do the upcoming year, and continue in that fashion,” McCray said.

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