Editor's Note: This story was updated at 12:30 p.m. on Feb. 18 with comments from board member BeLinda Henson.
The Franklin County Schools board approved a four-year contract for Superintendent Mark Kopp, but it wasn’t unanimous.
In a special meeting Tuesday, the board voted 4-1 to approve the contract.
Board member BeLinda Henson cast the dissenting vote, later telling The State Journal that she had "concerns about his leadership abilities."
The contract was on the board’s agenda at its Feb. 1 meeting, where a motion and a second to approve it was made.
It was tabled so board attorney Grant Chenoweth could attend Tuesday’s meeting and clarify some items in the contract.
After Chenoweth spoke, the motion from the last meeting was brought to a vote.
“I thought we were going to discuss the concerns that we had, not just of the written contract, but things we feel like Mark needs to improve upon,” Henson said.
“Wouldn’t that be done in the evaluation part of it?” board member Larry Perkins asked.
Board member Chuck Fletcher agreed any concerns would be part of the evaluation process.
“That’s personnel, so we would probably go in a closed session at that time,” Perkins said about a discussion on the concerns.
Chenoweth validated Perkins’ statement.
Rebecca Roberts, administrative assistant to Kopp, said evaluations have typically been done at the end of the contract year in June.
Voting for approval of Kopp’s contract were Perkins, Fletcher, Natalie Lile and Justin Watterson.
Henson addressed her concerns in a phone interview with The State Journal on Thursday.
"Let me preface this by saying I think Mark has the potential to be a phenomenal superintendent," she said.
Henson said she was speaking for people who had voiced concerns to her, and they included employees across the district.
"They have concerns about his leadership abilities, and that's across the board," she said. "It wasn't just one person saying it."
Henson said she was comfortable with a one-year contract, and if Kopp took recommended leadership courses or improved in areas where he was lacking, which she believed he would, to go ahead with the other three years of the contract.
"If you give a person a four-year contract, there's no incentive to do better," Henson said. "The other board members didn't feel that way, and that's OK. We all work well together."
“I just want to say thank you for the support of the board,” Kopp said at the end of Tuesday's meeting. “I appreciate it. I love doing what I do, and I can’t wait to be your superintendent for the next four years, so thank you very much.”
Kopp’s new contract will run from July 1 through June 30, 2025.
His salary will be calculated for the upcoming fiscal year based on his salary during the 2020-21 school year, which is $137,975.04.
“Until you finalize any salary schedule or if the General Assembly does something to you that mandates some adjustments to the salary schedule this spring, you can’t really do the math,” Chenoweth said.
“The compensation paragraph is written to reflect the current salary as though this was a continuous contract, as though this is not a new four-year term. It’s just to say basically the same thing will happen this summer as every summer under this existing contract.”
Chenoweth also suggested Kopp’s pay raises come before the board.
“If there’s an automatic type of pay increase in the superintendent’s contract, based on a salary schedule or based on whatever else, if it’s automatic, it’s still our advice it be brought to the board each summer before or at the beginning of the new fiscal year so the board can essentially check the math,” he said.
Chenoweth said he recommends this to other school boards as well in case a district’s financial officer and superintendent disagree on the amount of the superintendent’s raise.
In other business, the board approved a graduation agreement with the Kentucky Horse Park in Fayette County.
Kopp told the board there is language built into the contract to get out of it if by the time the graduation rolls around if the district is not allowed to participate in an event at the Horse Park.
The Horse Park is currently only allowing equine events, but Kopp said a representative at the facility said that could change by May 29, FCS’ graduation day.
A deposit the district made for Franklin County and Western Hills graduations in May that didn’t occur because of COVID-19 has been forwarded to this year’s graduation.
Kopp said the only backup option this year is an event or events at the schools.
“I think we have two days left we could possibly use as makeup days, and with potential weather later this week, it is something we will look at if and when we have to,” he said. “Unfortunately we’re not out of this winter weather yet.”