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Hamilton County Schools Superintendent Rick Smith could be in line for a hefty raise after board members delivered mostly glowing evaluations and approved a new round of contract talks.
The board voted unanimously Thursday evening to renegotiate Smith's contract and come up with a new four-year agreement. Smith, 60, is in the second year of a four-year contract that has him pulling in about $160,000 annually. But that figure is some $58,000 less than what former Superintendent Jim Scales was making before the board ousted him about two years ago.
Board member Joe Galloway, who made the motion for Smith's new contract, said the superintendent isn't being paid enough now.
"I feel like he's doing an excellent job moving our schools forward," Galloway said. "After looking at what he does and seeing the way he works with people, I think that for what he's doing, he's being underpaid."
But opening negotiations doesn't necessarily mean the board will approve the agreement that Smith and board attorney Scott Bennett reach in the coming weeks.
"It will all depend on what's in the new contract," said board member Jonathan Welch.
If the evaluations are any sign, the board views Smith's performance as improving. He received an average score of 3.74 on a 1-to-5 scale. A score of three means Smith is meeting board expectations, while a four indicates he's exceeding expectations. He scored 3.67 last year on a similar rubric.
Smith's average scores ranged from a low of 3.11 for his ability to keep the board informed on personnel decisions to a high of 4.57 for dressing appropriately.
Smith received lower scores for not delegating enough, not maintaining positive relationships with the news media and not seeking staff and public opinions on proposed policies.
Some of his highest marks came for maintaining a high degree of understanding and respect between school staff and the board, for refraining from criticizing the board, for building public support for the school district and for maintaining a high personal standard of ethics.
Under Smith's leadership, Hamilton County's test scores and graduation rates have mostly improved. But those scores also highlight the progress yet to be made: less than half of tested elementary students read at grade level or meet math expectations.
Contact staff writer Kevin Hardy at 423-757-6249 or khardy@timesfree press.com.