The Bulloch County Board of Education voted 5-2 Thursday evening to offer Superintendent Charles Wilson a three-year extension of his contract.
For Wilson, this improves on a one-year added contract he received in November. The new contract will pick up where that one ends, on July 31, 2019, and extend through July 2022, Wilson said Friday. A copy of the actual contract was not yet available, as it was being drawn up for him to sign, but Wilson said he understood the board’s offer was to provide him a 2 percent raise each of the following years from his 2018-19 annual salary of $176,820.
“We wanted to show our support for the superintendent,” Board of Education Chairman Mike Sparks said after Thursday evening’s meeting concluded. “We felt like he’s met the benchmarks that we set for him and we’re just looking forward to moving forward under his leadership.”
After handling other topics during a one-hour open session, the board voted to go into closed session to deliberate on two school transfer requests for students and also a personnel decision.
Returning to open session, the board voted 7-0 to approve one transfer request and 6-1 to deny the other, referring to the requests by initials so as not to identify either student. District 6 member Jimmy “Jay” Cook Jr. was absent, so the board was one short of its full eight votes.
Then Sparks called for a motion to offer Wilson the three-year contract extension.
District 4 board member Steve Hein made the motion, and District 1 member Cheri Wagner seconded it. Members Dr. Stuart Tedders of District 3, Heather Mims of District 7 and Sparks, who is the District 2 member, joined in voting “yes.” But District 5 member Glennera Martin and District 8 member Maurice Hill voted “no.”
His new year, too
When about 10,000 students return to the 15 schools Wednesday, Wilson will be starting the year that was already provided under the contract approved in November. Although that contact runs through next July, it required that he be notified by Dec. 31 if the board did not plan to offer him a further renewal.
That contract also gave him a 2 percent raise over the previous year.
But November’s one-year offer broke from a pattern of multiyear contracts and was approved on a 5-1 vote, with Martin opposed. Hill and Sparks, who left the Nov. 16 meeting for business reasons and illness, respectively, afterward said they would have opposed the renewal at that time.
However, Sparks, selected as 2018 chair by the members in January, has since expressed support for Wilson’s continued leadership of the school system. In April, Sparks issued a statement of “unanimous” backing for the superintendent, but Hill, who was not at that meeting, later said he would not have supported the statement.
With the April 17 statement, Sparks also announced that the board would “begin deliberations to enter into a long-term contractual relationship” with Wilson, so Thursday’s decision was the result.
Friday morning, Wilson said he was waiting to see the written contract but planned to accept it on the basis of the terms that were discussed.
“I appreciate the board’s confidence and support in me, in us – really in what we’re doing in the district – and I think this speaks volumes to their support and confidence in the direction we’re headed,” he said. “I’m humbled and appreciative.”
Wilson is now starting his seventh year as superintendent and his 23rd year of employment with the Bulloch County Schools. After joining the school system as its finance director, he became its chief financial officer, and when job was retitled again, an assistant superintendent. He was one of 33 applicants when the board hired him to be superintendent in June 2012.
His top degree then was a Master of Business Administration, and he remains a certified public accountant, but his first contract required him to add educator credentials. After meeting the contract requirements, he went on to get a six-year specialist’s degree in educational leadership from Georgia Southern University and a professional L6 leadership certificate.
More recently, the board has required Wilson to lead the school system’s progress in its 2015-2020 strategic plan. For now, the expectations remain the same as in November, Sparks and Wilson indicated.
“We’ve set the bar pretty high,” Sparks said.
In November, Wagner, then the chair, announced “board directives” for Wilson’s leadership through 2017-18. These included improving school climate and district morale and making progress on a diversity recruitment plan for teachers and other employees.
Other directives call for continued emphasis on school improvement plans and the teaching teams called professional learning communities, or PLCs, and the creation of a Guaranteed Viable Curriculum, meant to ensure that expectations for students’ learning are consistent from school to school.
Hill and Martin, who opposed the contract extension, are currently the only African-American board members. Local NAACP leaders in June 2017 called for Wilson to be replaced as superintendent, and repeated that this spring when objecting to his transfer, effective July 1, of Dr. Evelyn B. Gamble-Hilton, previously Langston Chapel Middle School principal for eight years, to fill an assistant principal vacancy at Southeast Bulloch High School.
The board on June 4 approved Wilson’s recommendation of Dr. Eric Carlyle, who is also African-American, to be the new Langston Chapel Middle School principal, on a 6-2 vote, with Hill and Martin opposed. Martin later said she believed Carlyle well qualified but objected to the process that led to his appointment.
Friday, Martin and Hill answered phone calls about their “no” votes on Wilson’s contract.
“I really think he is a professional person,” Martin said. “I’m just concerned about some educational decisions that have been made.”
“I just think that we could find a better person that’s more qualified to do the job and pull our school system back together again. …,” Hill said. “I know there’s been a high turnover rate, and I just think we can do a better job without being so political and focus on our boys and girls.”
Wilson, interviewed first, did not give a direct answer when asked if he would prefer a unanimous vote of support and how he might achieve it.
“I appreciate the support of the board, I appreciate those who work so hard to overcome differences and model our unity and our focus toward our students in our community, and I just hope that as we move forward everyone can agree to work together,” he said. “But I will do my best to serve our students and serve this community, and I just appreciate the confidence and support of this board.”
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.