TPSD will hire interim leader after Shaver

By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – The Tupelo Public School District will hire an interim superintendent once it completes negotiations with current Superintendent Randy Shaver on his early contract release.
The district has not yet outlined its search process for Shaver’s long-term replacement, but will do so once it completes those negotiations, School Board President Amy Heyer said Wednesday.
“We will have to work on all of that,” Heyer said. “Our first step is to negotiate with Dr. Shaver on his departure. We will take it step by step.”
The early-release was requested by Shaver, who said he feared that public outcry over his decision to replace high school principal Lee Stratton would became contentious to the point where he felt his leadership “would distract the Board and the school system from its mission.”
The district began negotiating with Shaver about that early release on Wednesday. Attorney Otis Tims, who is representing the district in the negotiations, said he is hopeful they will last a matter of days, not weeks.
“I don’t know if there is any way to predict how long it will take,” he said. “I am hopeful it will be an amicable process and that it will be concluded in a relatively brief period of time.”
During its search for Shaver in 2008, the board used national search firm Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates at a cost of about $18,000. The board has not determined whether or not it will hire a firm for this search, but Heyer did say it will not rush the process.
“One of my serious concerns is being able to attract the best and brightest into our community,” she said.
Shaver’s $177,000-per-year contract was due to expire in June 2013. He began in the district in July 2009.
His salary is currently the second highest in Mississippi, trailing only the $190,200 that Jackson pays its superintendent.
That designation was not unique for Shaver. Throughout the last decade, the salary Tupelo has paid its superintendent has ranked either first or second in the state.
“If it is not the most important job in our community, it is certainly one of the most important jobs,” said Mike Clayborne, who was on the district’s school board when Shaver was hired. “I think common sense would tell you that you need to seek out the best person available, and consequently, you need to have compensation commensurate with that high level of responsibility.”
Meanwhile, Tupelo’s average teacher salary of $45,625 in 2009-10 ranks seventh in the state. Clayborne said those salaries are set to be higher in order to be competitive with other areas.
Still, there are some Tupelo residents who feel that the city pays its superintendent too much. Among them are Ward 1 City Councilman Markel Whittington, who said he believes a total package worth $150,000, including benefits, would be “a good number.”
“In today’s world when the school system is fighting for every dollar it can get, and we’re trying to balance the budget and stretch people, we need to get back to basics.”
Fellow Councilman Jim Newell of Ward 3 disagreed.
“It would appear to me that’s probably the going rate and that’s what you have to pay to someone with good credentials,” he said. “If we don’t make the salary attractive, we’re not going to find somebody with good credentials.”
While the City Council must approve school board members nominated by the mayor, it has no authority over them after they assume their board roles. Nevertheless, the council entered the Shaver controversy this week when it called for his resignation.

No decision on Stratton
Meanwhile, Chris Barnes, whom the board named on March 29 as Stratton’s replacement at THS, announced on Tuesday that he will instead remain in his current job in North Carolina.
Heyer said the board has not yet discussed what that will mean for Stratton or who will be THS’ principal next year. Shaver had previously said that Stratton would become a principal at another school within the district.
Stratton could not immediately be reached for comment.

Contact Chris Kieffer at (662) 678-1590 or Reporter Emily Le Coz contributed to this story. Contact her at (662) 678-1588 or

Mississippi school districts whose superintendents earn $120,000 or more
District Enrollment Salary
1. Jackson (city) 30,366 $190,200
2. Tupelo 7,569 $177,657
3. Biloxi 5,008 $164,142
4. Columbus 4,521 $$154,000
5. DeSoto Co. 31,916 $152,268
6. Rankin Co. 18,937 $148,000
7. Clinton 4,572 $144,386
8. Greenwood 2,860 $140,624
9. Madison Co. 11,811 $140,466
10. Pascagoula 6,956 $138,243
11. Oxford 3,598 $138,000
12. Natchez Adams 3,869 $135,631
13. Greenville 6,145 $135,125
14. Petal 3,978 $131,731
15. Corinth 2,157 $130,181
16. Starkville 4,097 $130,000
17. Pass Christian 1,637 $128,947
18. Ocean Springs 5,379 $128,906
19. Gulfport 5,708 $126,070
20. West Point 3,288 $125,400
21. Louisville 2,718 $125,000
22. Lowndes Co. 5,115 $125,000
23. New Albany 2,194 $123,708
24. South Pike 1,912 $123,800
25. McComb 2,870 $123,436
26. Leflore Co. 2,765 $122,851
27. Brookhaven 2,941 $122,500
28. Hinds Co. 6,424 $122,410
29. Western Line 2,051 $122,119
30. Clarksdale 3,457 $121,000
31. Hattiesburg 4,528 $120,420
32. North Pike 2,438 $120,360
33. Lee County 6,887 $120,000
33. Grenada 4,344 $120,000
(The average superintendent salary in Mississippi: $102,252)
SOURCE: Mississippi Department of Education

The state’s top 3 superintendent salaries through the decade
School Yr Tupelo Jackson Biloxi
2000-01 $121,000 $135,000 $110,000
2001-02 $121,000 $150,000 $110,000
2002-03 $144,000 $125,000 $120,000
2003-04 $149,760 $130,000 $130,000
2004-05 $149,760 $140,000 $130,000
2005-06 $149,760 $145,000 $140,400
2006-07 $154,253 $155,000 $150,368
2007-08 $154,508 $155,000 $150,368
2008-09 $158,881 $175,000 $162,818
2009-10 $177,657 $196,000 $164,142
2010-11 $177,657 $190,200 $164,142
SOURCE: Mississippi Department of Education