Another year added to Culver's contract at Champaign schools

Another year added to Culver's contract at Champaign schools

CHAMPAIGN – Champaign school district Superintendent Arthur Culver got a one-year extension on his contract, in large part because of his work in helping the district successfully satisfy the requirements of its federal consent decree.

The school board evaluated Culver in closed session Tuesday night and voted 4-3 to extend his contract for an additional year, to June 30, 2014.

The three board members voting against the contract extension did so because they don't agree with having a contract extended beyond three years, not because of any dissatisfaction with the superintendent's performance, they said.

One of those board members, Sue Grey, noted the district's teachers and support personnel have three-year contracts. She said she doesn't want to vote for a contract extension beyond her term on the board.

Grey voted for a contract extension last year that gave Culver a contract beyond three years. She said doing so "went against my grain," but she wanted to show support for Culver as the district entered the final months of the consent decree.

"It's a philosophical issue I have," said board member Greg Novak, who also voted no. He said agreeing to a contract that is more than three years in duration ties the hands of future school boards.

"This is something we ran on. This is something we feel strongly about," Novak said.

Board President Dave Tomlinson agreed with that philosophy as well, but he voted for the contract extension in this case because, he said, it was the only action the board could take to reward Culver for his work related to the consent decree.

Grey said Culver did "an exceptional job" in ensuring the district fulfilled the requirements of the consent decree. Her vote against the contract extension "doesn't mean I don't think he's doing a good job and I don't have faith in him, because I do.

"It was a difficult decision. None of us take that lightly at all," Grey said. "I think we have a very thoughtful board. They took everything into consideration before making their decision."

Tom Lockman, who also voted no, said he thinks a three-year contract is appropriate.

"My vote had zero to do with any reflection on the performance of the superintendent in my time on the board," Lockman said. "This district is in the best position it's been in in a long time. I one-hundred-percent support him and his team and what they've done in the past year in getting out from under the consent decree."

While the board evaluates Culver and makes decisions on any contract extension, it does not vote on his pay. Culver's raise is tied to what the teachers get under their contract. But because of the budget cuts the district is facing now, Culver has agreed to forgo a raise this year.

Culver was hired in 2002 with a five-year contract.