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It's official: Jacobus inks contract with District 833

After a day touring School District 833, Keith Jacobus, one of two finalists for superintendent, was at East Ridge High School to meet with employees and spend an hour answering residents' questions. Bulletin photo by Judy Spooner

The contract for the incoming District 833 schools chief includes a larger salary and lacks terms that were at the center of controversy surrounding Superintendent Mark Porter's dismissal.

Keith Jacobus agreed to the South Washington County School Board's contract offer, which puts his first-year superintendent salary at $178,000 and provides annual raises and other terms that are standard in the field, the board's attorney said.

The board unanimously voted to approve the contract offer during a meeting Thursday, May 23. Jacobus agreed to it Friday.

"We had very cordial and amicable negotiations," said Mick Waldspurger, the district's attorney.

Jacobus could not be reached for comment before this edition of the Bulletin went to press.

The contract:

n pays Jacobus $178,000 in his first year.

n includes guaranteed annual 2.25-percent salary increases. Jacobus can waive an increase.

n allows for 25 days of vacation annually, in addition to 15 days of sick leave and three days each of bereavement pay and family illness.

n provides a $500 monthly vehicle allowance. Waldspurger said that is common and that the alternative would be to pay monthly mileage reimbursement, which often costs more.

n ends after three years. The School Board would have to vote to renew after that term.

n does not offer any incentive pay.

n does not include a severance payment provision or payment of unused sick time. Both were provisions in Porter's contract.

n offers the same insurance package given other school administrators.

The new contract is streamlined compared to Porter's and more closely resembles the Minnesota School Boards Association's model contract, Waldspurger said.

School Board Chairwoman Leslee Boyd said the removal of some contract language was done in part at the board's request and because it no longer is standard. For instance, the pending agreement does not set out a timeline for notice to be given if the contract is not going to be renewed.

That notice, and contract terms related to an annual performance review, was at the center of a disagreement between Porter and the board when his contract was not renewed by the board in December.

"It just gave school boards difficulty," Waldspurger said of the notice requirements.

The new contract defines some of Jacobus' job responsibilities. They include visiting and supervising district schools; annually evaluating school principals and performing other duties.

In the negotiations Jacobus asked for a salary above $178,000 but also said he expected compensation comparable to what's offered in other districts, Waldspurger said.

If he accepts the agreement, Jacobus' base salary will be about $18,000 more than Porter earned. Boyd said a salary of $178,000 puts Jacobus in line with superintendents in other similar districts.

Boyd said the disparity between what Jacobus will earn and Porter's salary is partly due to an "uncharacteristically low" salary given Porter. He succeeded a superintendent who was hired from within the district and another who came out of retirement to serve on an interim basis. Also, Boyd said, Porter declined a salary increase during his tenure.

Jacobus is leaving a job as assistant superintendent at Osseo Area Public Schools and will start in District 833 on July 1. He is paid $150,000 in Osseo, Boyd said.

Scott Wente

Scott Wente has been editor at the South Washington County Bulletin since 2011. He worked as a reporter at other Forum Communications newspapers from 2003 to 2011.

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