Benefits take point in negotiations between BOE, Roper

By Thomas Wilson

Elizabethton Board of Education continues to iron out details of a benefit package before finalizing a contract offer to make Dr. David Roper the city's next director of schools.
   "We are still in very active negotiations with our prospective director," said Dr. Bob Sams, chairman of the BOE, at Thursday night's board meeting. "Everything, so far, is very, very positive and that's what we've been looking for."
   The board has set a base salary figure of $83,000 annually in their tentative negotiations with Roper. The full benefit package -- which could be worth up to an additional $10,000 to $15,000 depending on the contract accepted by the board and Roper -- is still to be negotiated, according to board members. A formal contract has not been presented to Roper by the board as of yet, Sams said.
   Benefits up for negotiation include health insurance and a director's expense allowance for school business. Although the board had originally discussed dropping the annuity benefit to the next director, Sams said Thursday night that an annuity would be up for discussion in negotiations. The contract would not include an annual bonus payment, Sams said.
   The BOE voted 4-1 to negotiate only with Roper at its October board meeting. Board members held a public meeting with Roper in Nashville on Monday during a two-day Tennessee School Boards Association workshop. Roper has been superintendent of Roanoke City Schools in Roanoke, Ala., since 1999. His existing contract with that school system runs through 2005.
   His current contract pays him a base salary of $88,000. As part of the contract, the system also contributes $3,000 per year into a retirement annuity of his choosing.
   Roper said Thursday afternoon that he had talked to the full school board regarding becoming the system's next director in Nashville last weekend. "We have had some discussions," Roper said. "I think we all feel encouraged by the direction we are going."
   While the board's current contract with Interim Director Richard Culver is set at roughly $83,000, former ECS Director Dr. Judy Blevins received $88,000 as a base salary and more than $105,000 including health insurance and an annual annuity benefit of $5,000.
   "It is a matter of coming up with a contract that is acceptable to him and us," said board member Bob Berry.
   Sams said a second meeting between the board and Roper had not been set.