Las Vegas Sun

October 19, 2017

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School Board approves contract for new superintendent

Dwight Jones

Dwight Jones

Sun Coverage

After sharp debate, the Clark County School Board approved an employment agreement for Dwight Jones, who has been offered the job of schools superintendent.

The board Thursday night OK’d the agreement 6-1, with board member Larry Mason dissenting.

Jones, who has said he is eager to begin, would have to formally accept the contract.

The four-year agreement is valued at $350,000 a year, including a $270,000 salary and benefits. The start date, Dec. 1, is tentative, pending negotiation with Superintendent Walt Rulffes, who is retiring.

The agreement was negotiated by trustee attorneys, including Mark Wood, board counsel.

Two weeks ago, the board voted 6-1 to offer the job to Jones, the Colorado commissioner of education.

The sharpest exchange was between Mason, speaking remotely by telephone, and Wood.

Mason, sometimes in a voice edged with sarcasm, asked why Jones would receive $1,000 a day, up to $8,000, before he starts his job and out-of-pocket expenses for visiting Las Vegas.

“Was there a reason for the $1000?” Mason asked.

Wood said the figure seemed fair.

To whom, Mason shot back, and who determines what is fair?

Mason and the board, Wood replied.

Board member Carolyn Edwards said the number was fair because it was a little less than his daily salary in Colorado, which he would no longer be drawing.

In Colorado, Jones makes $224,000 a year. The Denver Post reported that the commission’s board, responding to Clark County’s overtures, was considering offering Jones a 10 percent pay increase.

Teri Janison, the school board president, said she asked the Public Education Foundation to help Jones with relocation expenses.

The foundation, whose chairman is Sig Rogich, a longtime media consultant close to the Republican Party, was willing to organize public donations for any one-time relocation expenses, including temporary housing, she said.

Jones would be required to report any relocation money as a taxable gift.

But Ruben Murillo, leader of the Clark County Education Association, the teachers union, said the arrangement might compromise Jones’ perceived independence.

The board voted 6-1 to approve the arrangement with the Public Education Foundation, with Mason dissenting.

As Colorado education commissioner, Jones works with 178 school districts, educating 830,000 students. He supervises an annual budget of $5 billion, but much of that is controlled and spent locally.

Clark County has about 310,000 students and a budget of $2.2 billion.

Under the approved agreement, Jones also gets a $150,000 life insurance policy, $700 a month for “private vehicle expenses,” including insurance, and $660 a month to defray expenses for being “visible in the schools” and participating in “community affairs.”

He also gets $4,000 a year for local, state and national professional meetings. He will receive $15,000 for moving expenses.

Board member Linda Young was the dissenting vote in offering Jones the job, saying it was not that Jones was unqualified but that the selection process was too speedy.

He was approved two weeks after a months-long, largely secret selection process by an executive recruiter.

Jones and his wife have a 7-year-old son, Landry, who would enroll in a public school. Jones also supports two older children in college.

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