NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Metro's new director of schools is raising eyebrows with some lucrative deals he's handed out to his top lieutenants.
All of this comes as the new boss tells teachers that they have to watch their own spending.
Metro Schools officials insist these deals are just the price of attracting top administrators who are needed to turn the district around.
But, as a result of questions raised by our investigation, they're promising to take a second look at one part of those new contracts.
At this week's meeting of the Metro School Board, Dr. Shawn Joseph promised members that he plans to take a hard look at how the district spends your money.
"Thinking strategically about how we utilize resources because we don't have a dollar to waste," Joseph said.
But Joseph, who drives a brand new $55,000 Tahoe provided by the district and sometimes has a driver, has raised eyebrows with contracts given to his new leadership team.
Those team members are: Chief Operating Officer Chris Henson, a longtime Metro Schools administrator; Chief Academic Officer Monique Felder and Chief of Schools Sito Narcisse, who came with Joseph from Maryland; and Chief of Staff Jana Carlisle, who's from New York.
We showed the contracts to Metro Council member Steve Glover.
"This is just much more lax than I would have been comfortable with when I was on the board," said Glover, who served on the school board for four years.
Under the deals, each of the chiefs gets paid $185,000 a year.
That compares to the $149,000 that former schools director Jesse Register paid his chiefs just two years ago -- and $160,000 that Henson paid when he was interim director last year.
In addition, Narcisse also has a Tahoe provided by the district that he drives home every night, as does Felder.
Henson has a smaller Ford Edge that was a hand-me-down from the former schools director.
"You watch the news, and people are not making more money today than they were 10 years ago," Glover said. "So I am trying to understand why those positions need to be paid that much more money."
When Joseph interviewed for the director's job back in May, he told board members: "To get the best talent, we have to pay them. High-quality talent costs."
And the district tells NewsChannel 5 Investigates that the pay for those chiefs is comparable to the salaries offered by similar-sized districts across the country.
But we discovered that, in addition to a base salary of $185,000 per year, each of Joseph's chiefs also get 25 days of paid vacation right from the start.
They can "cash out" 15 of those vacation days, effectively boosting their salaries to $196,000 a year.
"Under the way this contract reads, you automatically get a $10,500 [or] $11,000 raise for not taking time off that maybe you should have, but you couldn't have because you haven't been in the system that long," Glover said.
Nashville Mayor Megan Barry, by comparison, makes $180,000 dollars a year.
And Glover was most disturbed about a clause that we discovered saying that Metro could eventually be liable for paying out "sick days brought in from another school system."
"I mean, good heavens, if they brought in six months, eight months, 12 months worth of sick days, then we've said 'bring them on, welcome to Nashville,'" he noted.
"It's not our responsibility to pay for sick leave days that you maybe accrued in Maryland, Delaware, Birmingham, Alabama -- wherever the case may be. That's not our responsibility as taxpayers in Nashville."
The school district says that clause was a mistake, that they never intended that Dr. Joseph would bring in a team from out of state and put Nashville taxpayers on the hook for their sick time from their previous jobs.
Those contracts, according to a district spokesperson, are now being amended.
Metro Schools issued a lengthy statement before this story aired. It says in part:
"We hope this line of inquiry contributes to the citywide conversation about what we as a city want to invest in for our public schools. Our belief is that talent must be one of the top investments."
You can see the full statement here.
If you have a tip for our investigation, email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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