The Liberty County Board of Education held a press conference Tuesday morning to address the recently-renegotiated contract for Superintendent of Schools Dr. Valya Lee.
LCSS Chief Information Officer Dr. Patti Crane opened the press conference by stating its purpose as “to enlighten the Liberty County community and all media outlets concerning the recent salary adjustment” for Lee.
Although Lee did not speak during the conference, Board of Education Chairwoman Lily Baker, Chief Financial Officer Roger Reese and Chief Administrative Officer Jason Rogers all emphasized the point that Lee’s new contract did not include a pay raise, but rather was a “salary adjustment.”
“When we hired Dr. Lee, we did not offer her the same salary as a prior superintendent,” Baker said. “In fact, we didn’t offer her the salary as two prior superintendents. We offered and paid her less, and she agreed to come on at that time — a mistake that we’re here today to talk about.”
Baker went on to say that the board had been in “constant discussion” over Lee’s contract from last October until July, when the adjustments finally were made.
“After taking about $15,000 from her, we agreed to adjust her contract. What appears to be an increase is not so,” Baker said.
Baker also addressed the exclusion of the contract adjustment on the July 22 work-session minutes, which later were amended to include the adjustment.
“It is and has always been the practice of this board to be transparent,” Baker said. “However, as stated several times prior to today, the July meeting minutes did not reflect the pay adjustment, and for that we have apologized several times.”
The BoE chairwoman also implied that one board member recognized the exclusion of the contract adjustment on the July 22 minutes, but failed to mention the mistake prior to approving the minutes.
“If she did, we would have made the changes prior to approving those minutes,” Baker said.
Reese then explained the technicalities of Lee’s pay adjustment.
“When Dr. Lee assumed the role of superintendent of schools, she received a salary and the board paid — and agreed with her to pay — certain benefits,” Reese said. “We just changed the way we are compensating her in terms of the way she’s paid.
“ … She’s responsible for all her benefits,” Reese continued. “We pay her the salary. Her benefits are deducted and are her responsibility. She was entitled to all the things that’s necessary for all other certified employees. She received a step increase and all other adjustments that the other certified and other employees in Liberty County School System receive.
“There has been no pay increase for Dr. Lee,” Reese said.
Rogers then compared Lee’s salary and benefits package with those of her predecessor.
“Over six years ago, the compensation package for Dr. Lee’s predecessor was in excess of $184,000,” Rogers said. “In addition, the individual that served as interim superintendent prior to her predecessor was compensated at $180,000.
“In addition to that, the superintendent that served from 2001 through 2007 was compensated during his last year of service in excess of $157,000, was the recipient of a $10,000 per year annuity, as well as the board of education paying certain health and disability benefits on his behalf,” Rogers continued.
Crane then closed the press conference, stating that no questions would be entertained.