Process questioned, but Carson City School Board approves Stokes’ contract
The Carson City School Board voted Tuesday night to extend Superintendent Richard Stokes’ contract – over the protests of some members.
School board vice president Ryan Green expressed distaste for the process leading to the vote. The agenda item first came to the board on April 11 to renew the superintendent’s contract and include a pay raise starting July 1.
Board members were upset because President Laurel Crossman failed to mention at the prior meeting the item would be appearing at the April 11 meeting. That week, Crossman and former school board presidents and current members Ron Swirczek and Joe Cacioppo met with Stokes and the board’s legal adviser to negotiate the contract. When brought to the board the following week, many members felt they hadn’t had enough time to process the information and requested a continuance.
Due to an awards presentation, the board was unable to address the contract until Tuesday.
The board was voting to extend Stokes’ contract through 2020 and give him a pay increase of 13 percent — a base salary of $160,000, comparable to surrounding districts. The pay raise will be the only one Stokes’ has received in his nine years.
“I think this increase is reasonable because he is a highly qualified individual… He has served nine years and done a great job,” said Crossman. “I think it will hurt us down the road (not providing the raise) when we try to recruit later for the district.”
Green expressed dissatisfaction with the process and made a motion to table the discussion again in favor of creating and adhering to a policy for the board to properly execute such matters in this instance and in the future.
“I want to address the process with an adherence to the bylaws and start a bylaw process by how we vote,” Green said. “I am very uncomfortable with this, I have never spoken this strongly and there is no urgency here so I would rather do this in a direct and legit manner.”
Green tried to suggest the way the proceedings were handled were unethical, however, the board’s legal adviser explained no open meeting laws or other infractions were violated with the meeting with Stokes.
“I don’t see where you can see this board has done anything unethical or incorrect,” Crossman said to Green.
Green had support from members Mike Walker and Stacie Wilke, though Wilke explained she didn’t wish to continue the item, just to create the policy for the future.
“I didn’t like the process, I think we need to work on that, but not by putting this (agenda item) off and off,” Wilke said.
During the discussion, Stokes interjected and offered to withdraw the agenda item.
“I prefer to withdraw my request rather than have a negative image cast upon my character,” Stokes said.
The board voted against the motion to continue the matter, 4-3, with Green, Walker and Wilke forming the minority.
However, more discussion came with the motion to renew the contract. Green presented a statement outlining why he felt uncomfortable voting to provide the raise.
“This process has been poorly initiated from the beginning,” Green said. “The president unilaterally decided the superintendent needed a salary increase. She convened a meeting with two other board members, the superintendent, and a shared council. After they all agreed on the document we have in front of us, they attempted to agendize and vote on the proposed contract in one meeting with very little warning.
“I cannot rightfully give the superintendent a 25 percent raise without greater accountability,” Green said. “I encourage all of you to consider starting this process from the beginning in a fair and open manner. If we arrive at the same outcome, I will gladly support the contract at that time… I will consider your passage tonight to be a fracture in our relationship to communicate and work together as a board.”
Several of the board members expressed their disagreement with Green’s opinions.
“I am a little stunned by your accusations to the board,” Crossman said.
She said the board approves contracts constantly, such as with contractors, in just one meeting usually. Other members said Stokes has done a great job in the district.
“He has gotten us through some difficult situations over the years,” Swirczek said.
The board voted to approve the contract changes with Walker and Green opposed. They also approved unanimously the superintendent’s evaluation and goals for the year.