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Bibb schools chief’s contract extended through 2011

In a 5-2 vote Thursday, Bibb County school board members extended Superintendent Sharon Patterson’s contract through the 2010-11 school year.

Asked after the meeting, Patterson and three school board members would not answer questions of whether the contract calls for a pay increase or includes any other changes. Those board members were Susan Middleton, Tommy Barnes and Kenny Rodgers.

Reasons they gave for keeping details of the superintendent’s new contract quiet ranged from concerns about wording that needed to be changed to the fact that the contract had not yet been signed by school system attorney Warren Plowden and board President Lynn Farmer, who were both absent from the meeting.

The Telegraph cited Georgia’s open records law in an attempt to gain access to the document. Patterson said the terms would not be released Thursday but would be in a few days.

“There is no contract prepared,” she said. “There is no executed document.”

But board member Gary Bechtel, who voted against the renewal along with Rodgers, said after the meeting that Patterson and other board members were using “semantics” to avoid releasing the contract.

“There was a document we looked at,” he said.

Patterson’s new contract was reviewed by board members in executive session, Bechtel said. It showed Patterson would earn about $200,000 a year, not including benefits, and receive a 5 percent salary increase in 2010-11, he said.

“I don’t think it’s appropriate to have the board vote for a 5 percent increase,” Bechtel said, mentioning the fact that the school system is having financial troubles and is making cuts in virtually every department.

“I don’t think she’s taking care of business as it relates to climate and morale,” he added.

Rodgers, who did not provide any contract details, would only say he voted against Patterson’s contract renewal because of some of the terms.

“My vote had nothing to do with the superintendent’s performance. I didn’t agree with the terms and conditions,” said Rodgers, who declined to elaborate.

Patterson’s new contract begins July 1, 2009.

In July 2006, Patterson was paid $177,687 with built-in 5 percent increases in 2007 and 2008, her former contract shows. That amount does not include benefits.

According to the December Georgia Department of Audits and Accounts, Patterson earned $231,590, which includes both pay and benefits, in 2007-08.

By comparison, Houston County’s David Carpenter earned a little less than $200,000 last school year, state records show.

The Savannah-Chatham County superintendent earned $207,692; the Muscogee County superintendent earned $243,493; and Richmond’s former superintendent raked in $323,420.

According to the most recent average of superintendent salaries nationally, schools with district enrollment of 25,000 or more earned an average of $215,126 in 2007-08, according to the “Salaries and Wages Paid Professional and Support Personnel in Public Schools” report by the Educational Research Service in Alexandria, Va.

“I think she’s been outstanding,” board member Middleton said of Patterson’s performance. “When I look back on eight years of service, I can’t imagine what (the system) would’ve looked like without her insight and vision.”

She has a real gift for finding the right people for system jobs and “has a heart for the job,” Middleton said.

To contact writer Julie Hubbard, call 744-4331.

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