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Superintendent’s pay adjustment causes stir before elections

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Staff Writer

HUTCHINS - Wilmer-Hutchins Independent School District Board of Trustees approved a pay adjustment from $125,000 to $175,000 per year in a five-year contract for WHISD Superintendent Charles Matthews by a vote of 6-0 during special session April 15 at the WHISD Administration Building in Dallas.

Luther Edwards III, WHISD board president, who is up for re-election Saturday, said the salary really wasn't a raise or a bonus, it was an adjustment following a six-month evaluation after Matthews' hiring last December.

Matthews began serving as interim superintendent in October 2002.

'It was pro-rated through 12 months, it changed his base [salary],' Edwards said.

Edwards said the pay Matthews will be receiving should've been done when he was hired.

Instead, Edwards said the board had asked Matthews if he would accept the job at $125,000 with an adjustment to come later coinciding with the school district budget.

'We adjusted his contract the way it should've been,' Edwards said.

Edwards said the WHISD intended to make Matthews' salary comparable to other superintendents in Region 10 and across the state.

Matthews has more than 30 years' experience as superintendent.

There are superintendents with much less experience receiving equal or more pay than that of Matthews.

Matthews was named Superintendent of the Year in 1991.

'When we do something we do our homework,' Edwards said.

'It was known in December we would do a six-month evaluation.'

A school district having experienced tumultuous times in recent years, Edwards said the WHISD had some stability now with Matthews as superintendent.

Since Matthews' hiring, Edwards said students' test scores had improved in the WHISD. The district has added

100 students, opened two schools and new homes are planned for construction this year within the district.

Edwards said there had not been population growth in the district for 35 years.

Wilmer-Hutchins High School athletic teams dropped from Class 4A to 3A competition within the last 15 years.

Edwards said with additional homes and students the WHHS Eagles could move up to as high as 5A in the coming years.

Paul Johnson, a private investigator living in Hutchins, said he questioned the reasoning for approving what he called a raise for the superintendent.

'This is being kept under the table,' Johnson said. 'The meeting last Wednesday [Aril 15] was a secret meeting.

'There was under the table dealings going on there. They had their regular meeting Tuesday [April 14]. It was a secret meeting Wednesday [April 15]. This is not Dallas.'

Edwards said the session was a special called meeting with an agenda that had been legally posted.

Trustees had met in regular session the previous evening April 14.

However, Edwards said superintendent evaluations were always held in separate meetings.

Trustee Joan Bonner, who is up for re-election, said she was unable to attend the April 15 session due to employment.

'No board member has given me information [about the meeting],' Bonner said.

She said she probably would've voted against the pay adjustment for Matthews.

'That's probably why they had it at 6 p.m.,' Bonner said.

She said the WHISD had more pertinent needs than approving a pay adjustment for superintendent.

'There's too many other things our children need,' Bonner said. 'We're kind of missing the big picture. I don't know how the majority of the board warranted giving him a raise. We need to make sure programs are in place.'

She said school buildings were in need of repairs such as curtains, roofs and holes in asphalt and paved areas.

'I have only one opinion and no one seems to appreciate my opinion on the board,' Bonner said.

She said test scores had improved before Matthews arrived.

'Dr. Matthews can't take credit for that,' she said. 'He inherited that. He inherited good campus leaders. Maybe those [additional] 100 students were coming back anyway.

'We're spending money as fast as we get it, and not on the children. It's spent on the adults.'

Bonner said was money spent for landscaping in front of one of the school buildings.

'There's too many things inside the buildings need done,' she said.

Edwards said Bonner usually voted against whatever Matthews proposed.

With the upcoming school board and city elections, Hutchins resident Paul Johnson said the WHISD board was attempting to maintain all African-Americans on the board.

Edwards referred to the Hutchins City Council, which has a mix of Anglo, Hispanic and African-Americans; Wilmer City Council, which does not have any African-Americans; Ferris Independent School District Board of Trustees, which has two African-Americans; and Ferris City Council, which has one African-American.

Edwards said all board trustee positions up for election are at-large.

'Anyone can run,' he said.

Edwards said rumors are being spread just prior to the elections creating something totally ludicrous.

'This is election time and people are trying to do some things to make people look bad,' Matthews said.

Other candidates for this Saturday's school board elections are Shikara Brown, Brenda Duff, Vornadette 'Sha-Sha' Brewster, Virgie L. Grant-Brooks and Doris Washington Strickland.

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