No talks set with Roper, BOE

By Thomas Wilson

One week after voting to negotiate with one of four candidates, the Elizabethton Board of Education is awaiting a date to begin discussion about salary and contract length with its top choice for the next director of Elizabethton City Schools.
   The BOE voted 4-1 to negotiate only with Dr. David Roper after selecting two finalists for the director's post last week. Roper was the only candidate to receive a vote from all five board members from a field of four candidates.
   If contract negotiations are underway, the board may need to pony up a higher salary than they initially anticipated. According to Roanoke City Schools Finance Officer Catherine McKinney, Roper's current contract pays him a base salary of $88,000. As part of the contract, the system contributes $3,000 per year into a retirement annuity of his choosing.
   While the board's current contract with interim director Richard Culver is set at roughly $83,000, former director Dr. Judy Blevins' received $88,000 as a base salary and more than $105,000 including health and annuity benefits. The Elizabethton BOE had informally agreed on ending the practice of annuity contributions for the system's next director.
   The Roanoke system matches social security and insurance premiums as well as a $125,000 term life insurance policy. Roper also receives a monthly $150 business expense account; a monthly allowance of $500 for car and travel expenses, as well as reimbursement for all business travel outside of Roanoke.
   After Roper, Guy Fisher was the closest competitor for the position, earning three votes from the board, while candidate Dr. Richard McInturf from Bristol Tennessee City Schools got two votes. The board initially planned to select two finalists but opted to negotiate only with Roper.
   Roper was selected as Roanoke's superintendent in 1999. His first contract negotiated with the system's school board set a base salary of $80,000, according to finance records.
   The Roanoke school board voted to extend Roper's contract an additional three years in 2002. His present contract with the system lasts through June 30, 2005. There is no state law in either Tennessee or Alabama that sets a superintendent salary scale or recommends a salary level based on experience or qualifications.
   Located roughly 45 miles southeast of Talladega, Roanoke lies in Randolph County near the Alabama/Georgia border. Unlike Elizabethton, the five Roanoke Board of Education members are appointed to five-year terms in office by the Roanoke City Council.
   The system has three schools Knight-Enloe Elementary, Handley Middle School, and Handley High School. The system also operates Randolph-Roanoke Career Technical Center in conjunction with Randolph County School System. According to state data from the Alabama Department of Education, Roanoke City Schools enrolled roughly 1,500 students and averaged a pupil expenditure of $5,371 per student in 2001-2002.
   If Roper becomes Elizabethton's next superintendent, he will take over a system with five schools and more than 2,200 students.
   The majority of school systems in Alabama appoint their superintendents. However, some counties still hold elections to choose them. The superintendent of Randolph County Schools is elected by popular vote every four years.