New Jefferson schools superintendent to be paid $230,000 a year _lowres

Advocate staff photo by JOHN McCUSKER -- Jefferson Parish school system Superintendent Isaac Joseph.

The Jefferson Parish School Board on Wednesday night unanimously approved a contract for new Superintendent Isaac Joseph that was shorter and for less money than first proposed by the board’s president.

A contract draft released Tuesday called for paying Joseph $230,000 a year for a term running through Dec. 31, 2017. But two School Board members said they were perturbed that President Cedric Floyd had negotiated those terms without input from all of his colleagues, and the agreement was adjusted to pay Joseph $200,000 a year and end the contract a year earlier. It takes effect May 1.

The two board members who expressed displeasure with Floyd were Mark Morgan and Larry Dale. Though neither opposed the amended contract when it was put up for a vote, they still raised questions about some of the details.

While the original version called for Joseph to receive a $1,000 monthly car allowance, the amended contract says the School Board will provide a vehicle, gasoline and maintenance. Morgan said it worried him that the contract didn’t specify the type of vehicle Joseph will get.

Morgan said he also was troubled by a provision saying Joseph will be able to benefit from any raises approved by the Legislature, noting that the agreement already sets an annual salary.

Floyd said the board as a whole would retain final say on what car Joseph drives.

Board attorney Mike Fanning said the contract being offered to Joseph was “basically the same” as those given to previous superintendents. “There’s obviously some minor changes,” he said.

Before Wednesday’s meeting, Dale said he hoped to see more explicit performance measures included in the contract.

The contract says only that each year, “the board and the superintendent shall agree, in writing, on the goals and objectives for the Jefferson Parish School Board, all of which shall become part of the terms and conditions of this contract.”

A contract extension offered in 2012 to Joseph’s predecessor, James Meza, included specific targets for district, school and student performance, as well as plans for various improvements.

Floyd said Meza’s contract had specific performance targets because the Jefferson school system had a D rating from the state at the time. The system now has improved to a B rating, he said.

Nonetheless, Floyd promised that, with guidance from various stakeholders, initial performance goals for Joseph will be set well before the July 1 deadline mentioned in the contract. He said they will cover matters such as test scores, teachers, finances, contract compliance and “salary appropriateness.”

Board member Ricky Johnson expressed reservations about the contract’s length. Previous superintendents got contracts for at least two years, he said.

“I mean, a lady is expected to deliver in nine months — and (it’s like) you’re telling her to deliver in 6 1/2 months,” Johnson said of Joseph’s 20-month contract. “We’re asking him to do a whole lot.”

Floyd invited Johnson to propose a contract extension for Joseph later if he wishes.

The contract then was approved 9-0, and the new superintendent received a round of applause from spectators.

“I’m ready to go to work,” Joseph said after the meeting. “That’s it — I’m ready to go to work.”

The School Board elected Joseph to succeed Meza over five other candidates, including Michelle Blouin-Williams, who was Meza’s deputy superintendent and has been interim superintendent since Meza retired at the end of January.

Meza’s annual salary was $248,000.

Like Meza’s contract, Joseph’s agreement provides a monthly reimbursement for out-of-pocket business expenses. Joseph’s contract permits a monthly reimbursement of up to $600, compared with $1,000 for Meza.

Joseph has been part of the Jefferson school system for 29 years and most recently was the district’s executive director of grants and federal programs.