The main reason for Collierville attorney Vanecia Kimbrow's motion was to make sure those giving legal advice to the board are in fact ultimately accountable to the board. Kimbrow and fellow appointed member City of Memphis prosecutor Teresa Jones each made the case that as lawyers they were very concerned about avoiding any potential conflict of interest. I was also told by one board member that a concern is having the same attorney drafting employment contracts for a superintendent or superintendents and their staffs also being employed at their whim.
Speakman makes $152,000 compared to Hopson's $189,000, so any bump for her would mean a $37,000 raise -- about a 25-percent increase. However, Kimbrow's final reading out loud of her motion did not include any language authorizing a salary increase. The discussion over the issue did go on for nearly an hour -- at least twice as long as discussion on any other matter that came before the board on Monday. Within that discussion, it was a suburban Shelby County Schools board member, David Reaves of Bartlett, who suggested that salaries be "leveled" with a "bump."
Here is a play by play of the less than 60 seconds of discussion on the specific issue of salary:
REAVES: "If we're expecting both of them to be general counsels of the board, I would like to see the pay scales bumped." Pause: "Can we not do that?"At that point, Arlington mayor Mike Wissman tried again to have the issue deferred to next week's work session. When Kimbrow called the question, this is what she said -- again with no mention of a change in salary.
Appointee Kevin Woods, a Republican from Memphis, sees a chance to cut costs and says, "Are we going to take the lowest again?" Lots of laughter follows. Woods persists, saying his "conservative" colleagues should see it as an opportunity.
Then Kimbrow said, "It will be cheaper than (name of outside law firm) would be."
Reaves: "There is a little disparity there, I think."
Pickler. "So is that a friendly amendment?" Pause. "Ms. Kimbrow?" Pause. "Somebody's getting a pay raise here, right?"
"I'm going to move for the question that with attorney Hopson and attorney Speakman, that we realign the organizational chart that they report to the new board of education and they support the superintendent in matters of his discretion or their discretion. They can appoint outside counsel on matters where the superintendent may feel he needs independent counsel, either he or Cash, with financial responsibility for attorney Hopson continuing through his contract period with (MCS) and attorney Speakman's compensation to remain with the board of education as the contract now stands."Even with a work session Tuesday expected to go heavy on educational needs, this issue seems poised to take up a good deal more time from the board. The suburban SCS representatives -- or at least Pickler and Reaves -- seemed intent on giving Speakman equity with her colleague, since both will be representing the same board after all. However, former MCS president Martavius Jones makes the point in the story that, "If you look at the volume of work the general counsel of Memphis City Schools does versus that of Shelby County Schools, you are not making an apples to apples comparison." MCS board members have also long made the point that the free market for salaries to hire experienced personnel for a large urban districts is much different than the free market for salaries for hiring experienced personnel for suburban districts.
It is certainly an example of one small but important matter that could well disrupt "unity" on the "unified" board. It should be pointed out that both Speakman and Hopson lavished praise on one another and spoke of how eager they are to get to work helping with the monumental task before the board and administrations.