Contract Talks Drag On For Iowa City School's Chief
By Gregg Hennigan, Reporter
IOWA CITY, Iowa - The Iowa City school board is entering its eighth month of reviewing the job performance and contract of Superintendent Stephen Murley, an unusually long time compared with past practice.
School board members and Murley would not explain the delay but said Murley’s job is not in jeopardy.
“I personally think the board has a good working relationship with the superintendent and the length of the timeline of the negotiations is not a reflection of satisfaction or dissatisfaction with his performance,” board member Sarah Swisher said. “Things are going very well and we’re satisfied with him.”
Murley said he wishes the negotiations were finished.
“I think it’s a distraction for me and the board and it’d be good to have it done and move on,” he said.
Murley is in the third year of a three-year deal that took effect July 1, 2010, when he started with the Iowa City school district, and runs through June 30, 2013.
The board evaluates the superintendent annually and typically revisits the person’s compensation each summer. The board even has a policy saying that should occur in June. In August 2011, Murley’s salary was increased from $184,000 to $187,606 a year.
This year, the school board has had at least six closed sessions to evaluate Murley, starting April 3. Iowa law allows public agencies to conduct performance evaluations in private.
"Superintendent evaluation" was listed on the meeting agendas for the first three closed sessions. The next three were for "superintendent contract and compensation."
On Aug. 7, Murley’s contract and compensation were listed on the agenda for the school board’s regular meeting, suggesting those items could be voted on. But the board, which was missing two members, went into closed session and took no formal action. It has met in closed session on the matter two times since then, with another scheduled for Nov. 6.
Board members and Murley were mum on the reasons for the delay and referred questions on the evaluation process to board President Marla Swesey. She did not immediately return messages seeking comment Friday.
Murley acknowledged contract talks have lasted much longer than what is normal and said it perhaps had to do with five of the seven board members doing this for the first time after being elected last fall.
One of those newer members, Jeff McGinness, agreed with that and said he is “very happy with the direction that the district is going under” Murley’s leadership.
Murley said he is happy with his job and board members have said their intent is to reach an agreement with him. Asked if he was concerned people may wonder if the protracted negotiation signals some level of dissatisfaction between the board and him, Murley said that is out of his control.
“To that end, I guess I would hope people would just let the process run its course,” he said.
Murley said he believes students have continued to perform well in the classroom and in extracurricular activities in his two-plus years with the district and the district is making major progress on infrastructure issues.
McGinness and Swisher said they were particularly pleased with the recently developed plan to use what are known as tax anticipation revenue bonds, or TARB, to open up more money for school construction projects.
“I’m just ecstatic over the potential for TARB, and Steve and his administrative team get a lot of credit for coming up with the concept,” Swisher said.
Sally Hoelscher, another board member, said she too was happy with Murley.
“I’m hopeful that we will come to an agreement soon and he will continue to be our superintendent,” she said.
What's On KCRG