School board seals a deal

Durham system secures new leader

Staff WriterFebruary 2, 2006 

The Durham school board has completed contract negotiations for Deputy Superintendent Carl Harris, who is to take over the school system when Superintendent Ann Denlinger retires at the end of the academic year.

In closed session last week, the board instructed its attorney to finalize a contract for Harris that is modeled closely after Denlinger's.

School board members would not get into specifics of the contact but said that Harris will be paid less than the $196,994 Denlinger pockets -- the fourth highest superintendent salary in the state -- but will receive a salary and benefits package commensurate with his level of experience and that of similar school systems, board member Heidi Carter said.

Denlinger's contract includes a $750-a-month car allowance, $100 a month for a cell phone and paid membership dues to up to seven professional or civic organizations.

With the Jan. 26 vote, the school board closed an unconventional process of replacing the superintendent.

The same night that Denlinger announced her retirement in October, the school board voted unanimously to hire Harris as her replacement.

Usually, a lengthy search process follows a superintendent's departure. Wake County, which is also losing its superintendent the end of the school year, hired an organization to manage the search. It also has posted surveys online for the public to weigh in about what characteristics it wants in a school leader and is soliciting opinions from PTA presidents, the Wake Education Partnership and chambers of commerce.

But in Durham, the board interviewed no other candidates and held no public forums.

Board member Jackie Wagstaff said that she does not agree with the board's approach but that she could not persuade the board to give the parents, teachers and other stakeholders a chance to question Harris before giving him the job. Wagstaff said when picking who would lead the district that more deference should have been given to Durham residents.

"This is no disrespect to Carl Harris. I don't want him to ever think this has anything to do with him as a person," Wagstaff said. "But the public should have had an opportunity to have an input on a decision of this magnitude."

After the Savannah, Ga., school system named Harris a finalist for its superintendency last year, board members said they did not want to risk losing him.

Staff writer Nikole Hannah-Jones can be reached at 956-2433 or nikole.hannahjones@

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