Monroe County schools Superintendent Mark Porter this week moved closer to signing a new deal with the School Board that would include a $15,000-a-year raise.
But board members couldn’t decide whether a simple or super majority should have the power to remove him without cause. Porter prefers a requirement that only a super majority, or four of the five members, could oust him.
Bobby Highsmith and Ron Martin said they prefer a super-majority vote requirement while two other members disagreed and the fifth was undecided.
“I thought that was a great idea not just for his sake but really for the integrity of this board,” Highsmith said. “This county does have a history of gangs of three taking charge of things and running rampant.”
“I’ve been around for a couple of years,” said Vice Chairman Andy Griffiths, who opposes a super majority holding that power. “To require four out of five, 80 percent, to me gives the board’s minority too much power. A gang of two is more harmful than a gang of three.”
Undecided was member Mindy Conn, who was elected Aug. 30 and just started last month.
“I’m just not ready,” Conn said.
No vote was taken at Tuesday’s workshop in Tavernier at Coral Shores High School. The board meets next Jan. 10 at Marathon High School, starting with a workshop at 3 p.m. and a regular meeting at 5 p.m.
Board members Tuesday had their first chance to publicly review a draft contract for Porter that would run through July 30, 2020, with an annual salary of $165,000 plus $650 per month for mileage and car expenses.
Porter said he put off negotiating a new contract until one was in place for teachers.
“You take care of your employees first,” Porter said. “There are only three changes to the contract, none of which are retroactive.”
The new contact would include $1,500 for a fund Porter may tap for “civic and community activities” he thinks will help promote good public relations.
Porter was hired in 2012 at an annual salary of $150,000, becoming the first schools chief in the Florida Keys not chosen by the voters in the wake of the Monique Acevedo embezzlement scandal that caused her husband, Randy, to be removed from office. Porter hasn’t had any increase in compensation since he took the job.
Highsmith said he wants Porter to stay and the only criticism he has heard from the public is Porter is “aloof” and has a vertical management style.
“That’s the result of being an appointed superintendent as opposed to what this county has been used to for a long, long time,” Highsmith said. “That’s an elected superintendent. You’re also a politician and you have to answer to everyone in the street every day.”
Requiring a super majority vote to remove a superintendent isn’t only about protecting Porter or anyone in that position, Highsmith said.
“It’s really about the board dynamic,” Highsmith said. “You have a potential for a gang of three taking control of the board and running roughshod over a lot of interested parties.”
Gwen Filosa: @KeyWestGwen