Contract for Cox, extension for Rafalowski up for school board votes next week

Rick Wagner • Jun 4, 2019 at 10:46 AM

BLOUNTVILLE — David Cox, the finalist tapped to be Sullivan County’s new director of schools, is in line to have a pay and compensation package higher than the current one of retiring Director Evelyn Rafalowski.

However, Hawkins County native Cox, who holds a Ph.D., would be taking a pay cut and car allowance cut from his current job in Maryland if the Board of Education approves the negotiated draft contract, Chairman Michael Hughes said. The matter will be up for a vote at the BOE’s regular meeting at 6 p.m. June 6 in the first-floor meeting room of the health and education building. The pay for Cox also would be below the average in Tennessee, a school board member said, although the cost of living is higher in Maryland than in the Tri-Cities.

During a Thursday evening work session, the board reviewed the draft contract that calls for a salary of $134,000, compared to Rafalowski’s current pay of $129,700, that is to increase by .5 percent July 1, the same increase for professional employees.

The board also reviewed a proposal to extend Rafalowski’s contract at her pay rate through July 31, although board member Mark Ireson said he would make a motion to increase her pay for that month to match what the draft contract would pay Cox. She had announced her intention to retire effective June 30 after 42 years with the school system and four as director but has agreed to stay on until Cox, who has 20 years of experience as a superintendent or director, can formally begin working for Sullivan County on Aug. 1.

She said he would be in Tennessee in July to interact with board members at a Summer Law Institute in Pigeon Forge and principals in a local retreat.

The board chose Cox after consultant Wayne Qualls helped the board narrow its choices to three finalists interviews.


The draft Cox contract, a month short of four years, would run Aug. 1, 2019 through June 30, 2023 and pay Cox $134,000 a year plus whatever percentage raise professional staff got each year thereafter, along with a monthly vehicle allowance of $800 or $9,600 per year. Hughes said Cox makes about $180,000 a year with the Allegany County Public Schools in Cumberland, Maryland, where he gets a car allowance of about $12,000 a year.

Board member Randall Gilmore said the average Tennessee director or superintendent made $144,660 as of April 27. The maximum length of a contract for school system heads in the state is four years.

In addition to the base salary pay, the contract would pay the employee and employer shares of contributions to the Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System.

In answering a question from Ireson, school system Finance Director Ingrid DeLoach said that would add $6,700 a year or 5 percent of his pay to his compensation, which already would include the 10.63 percent of his pay the school system pays for all professional employees. Rafalowski said that because Cox worked in the Hawkins County and Kingsport school systems, he is qualified for the old TCRS traditional pension plan rather than the 2011 hybrid 401(k)/traditional retirement plan younger Tennessee educators and others on TCRS are under. 

Board member Paul Robinson also asked questions about the draft contract.

Another change from past contracts is that the draft says that if the board fires Cox unilaterally, without cause, that he would be paid the full buyout of his contract and not have any future pay from another position deducted from the buyout. Hughes said the retirement, salary, car allowance and termination clause were the major concerns for Cox.

However, the draft contract, as past contracts, also would pay Cox $200 a month for cell phone and home office expenses, pay dues and other expenses of belonging to professional and civic organizations and pay him mileage, meals and other expenses associated with out-of-county travel pertaining to his position.


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