by Ivan Foley
After what it called a “national” search, the Park Hill School Board filled the district’s superintendent position with someone who was on hand the entire time.
Dr. Jeanette Cowherd, who has worked in the district for more than a decade and has been serving as interim superintendent since April, was announced as the board’s choice as new superintendent at a meeting Thursday night.
Cowherd has signed a three-year contract that begins July 1.
Her base salary in the first year of the contract is $210,000. There are other benefits and stipends within the deal, which are detailed later in this article.
The boost up to the $210,000 base salary for Cowherd kicked in on a pro-rated bases upon signing of the contract last week. She had been making $194,000 in base salary as interim superintendent.
“I love working here. This last decade has been amazing. There are amazing people that come to work here every day,” Cowherd said after Boon Lee, board president, had announced the decision at the board meeting.
“I’m looking forward to the next many, many years,” Cowherd added.
As for landing the job, Cowherd said: “It was a very rigorous process, I will guarantee you that.”
Cowherd had taken over on an interim basis following the departure of Scott Springston last April. The board had announced that Springston resigned due to health reasons. The Landmark later uncovered a police report detailing a domestic disturbance at the Springston home in Weatherby Lake. The call had occurred several weeks prior to Springston’s resignation and signed “separation agreement.”
According to the police report, Springston’s wife told authorities that when her husband arrived home from work “he was intoxicated and the two of them had been arguing for about an hour before she called police.” Though no physical assault was alleged, according to the police report Mrs. Springston told authorities that her husband “has issues with alcohol and the littlest amount of alcohol will make him violent, which has been increasing lately.”
In regard to the hiring process surrounding the move to choose Cowherd as the new superintendent, Janice Bolin, vice president of the school board, thanked staff members who put in extra time to help arrange meetings and performed other additional efforts during the process.
Matt Pepper, board member, said the board valued the public feedback that it received.
“Between the focus groups, online surveys, and candidate sessions we had over 200 people involved. Thanks to the teachers, administrators, support staff and students. We were particularly impressed with the students and their professionalism and their engagement in the process,” Pepper remarked.
Lee, the board president, thanked all board members for their work on the matter. In response to an inquiry from The Landmark, Park Hill officials listed the total cost of the search for a new superintendent to be $28,106.50. Of that, $21,000 went to the search firm and $7,106.50 was spent on miscellaneous items like advertising, candidate travel, meeting costs, etc.
Prior to being named interim superintendent last spring, Cowherd had been serving as the assistant superintendent for school improvement with duties that included strategic planning, K-12 principal supervision and leadership development. She has worked in the district for 11 years, previously serving as assistant to the superintendent and a building administrator.
Before entering school administration, she was an instrumental music teacher in southwest Missouri and the Shawnee Mission School District.
In addition to the $210,000 base salary, some of the other highlights of Cowherd’s new contract, a copy of which The Landmark requested and obtained, include:
•A $5,000 lump sum “to defray moving and relocation expenses.” The addendum says the employment contract “contemplates that Cowherd will incur some moving and relocation expenses.”
•An annual doctoral stipend of $4,000.
•Fully paid insurance that includes hospitalization, health and dental, always with the most comprehensive coverage option.
•The district will pay the annual premium for term life insurance in the amount of $100,000.
•A $25,000 annual cash benefit direct payment to be used at Cowherd’s discretion. It is designed as for “additional benefit items of the superintendent’s choice, but contract wording allows for Cowherd to accept the $25,000 as a direct payment.
•An annual amount of $7,500 for the purchase of an annuity.
•A monthly allowance of $800 for local use of her automobile. In addition, she will receive reimbursement at IRS mileage rate for any business-related trip which (one way) exceeds a distance of 150 miles from the district office.
•Her base salary for 2016-17 is $210,000. The base for 2017-18 shall be increased by not less than 2.5% nor more than 5%, unless the board votes to approve no salary increase for the district’s teachers in the 2017-18 school year.
•Twenty days paid vacation per year. No more than 10 days vacation shall be taken in consecutive days unless approved by the board president. Cowherd is entitled to 15 days of sick leave per year with full pay. Any unused portion of the annual sick leave shall accumulate until the aggregate total of annual sick leave and accumulated leave reaches 230 days.