Florida Keys News
Saturday, June 7, 2014
Proposed contract extension drawing fire from Davidson

A proposal to extend the employment contract of Superintendent of Schools Mark Porter nearly 13 months before it is set to expire has drawn withering criticism from District 3 School Board member Ed Davidson.

The proposal is scheduled to be tabled during Tuesday evening's board meeting in Marathon at the recommendation of Chairman Ron Martin. It would extend Porter's contract until July 31, 2017, at his current rate of pay -- $150,000. Currently, Porter's contract won't expire until July 31, 2015.

However, Davidson is crying foul on the measure, stating that the move would effectively disenfranchise incoming school board members following the November election.

Davidson took to the airwaves on Friday afternoon, making his case on Evening Edition with Ezra Marcus.

"Adding another two years to Superintendent Porter's existing contract, which still has 13 months to run, would disenfranchise any newly elected board member by stealing their authority over the superintendent's contract for the first two-and-a-half years," Davidson said following the program. "That's an outrage, and the only real reason to do this is that the powers that be are afraid that another reformer, like Stuart Kessler, will be elected in November giving me three committed reform votes, and forcing them to renegotiate every deal they've made during Porter's first two years as superintendent. Attempting to do this is an affront to all the school board challengers, and I think it's clearly unethical, immoral and un-American."

Davidson also warned that the scheme would likely backfire, even if the measure is passed on Tuesday.

"If I were running for election this November and they tried to pull this crap on me I'd be filing a lawsuit the day after I got sworn in," he said. "If enough school board members are upset about all this after the election, the contract provides for termination of the superintendent at the school board's option, and state law limits severance pay to no more than 20 weeks. I plan to recommend to the superintendent that the best thing he could do to secure his career longevity n Monroe County would be to announce at the meeting that rather than extend his contract now, he would prefer to continue working on solutions to the many problems the school district has, and to try to earn some higher ratings on some of the lowest-rated categories."

For his part, Martin said he would be recommending passage of the new contract as a show of support for the superintendent on the heels of increasingly higher evaluations from all the board members except Davidson.

"Based on my review and discussion with the superintendent regarding his third evaluation, which was considerably higher than the last two, I'm going to recommend the extension of his contract for two additional years," Martin said. "As the chairman of the board, I'm looking for stability, leadership, consistency and integrity, and I think Superintendent Porter has all these qualities. We're in much better shape than we were just four years ago."

When asked if he was concerned that Porter could be lured away by another school district, Martin replied, "There's always that possibility, but that's not why I'm doing it. I'm going to recommend it and see what happens."


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