A deal was sealed Wednesday to hire Des Moines' superintendent as the next leader of the Omaha Public Schools, at a base salary of $275,000.
Nancy Sebring, who will start her new job July 1, will receive other benefits, including a $38,500 tax-sheltered annuity, a $12,000 car allowance and the option to cash in unused vacation, under a contract approved Wednesday by the Omaha school board.
Her contract differs in several ways from that of current OPS Superintendent John Mackiel. Certain financial incentives, as well as provisions regarding the role of the superintendent and board, that are part of Mackiel's contract were kept out of Sebring's agreement.
Overall, she will make about $325,500 a year in her new gig, though she could earn more if she cashes in unused vacation. That total is about $88,000 less than Mackiel's total compensation.
Board President Freddie Gray called Sebring's deal “clear, fair and competitive.”
The board voted 11-0 to approve Sebring's three-year contract; board member Sandra Jensen was absent.
The board also altered the last two months of Mackiel's contract to designate him as a “liaison consultant” after Sebring takes over as superintendent. His pay will remain unchanged. Mackiel, 62, will retire Sept. 1.
During the two-month transition, Mackiel will introduce Sebring to community members and OPS staff, as well as help her prepare for the coming school year, Gray said.
Sebring, 57, has been the superintendent of the Des Moines Public Schools for six years. The board voted earlier this month to hire her as the next OPS leader.
Mackiel is retiring after 40 years with the district, the last 15 years as superintendent.
Mackiel's base pay is $258,000, but a World-Herald analysis last year found that he earns $413,607 because of add-ons such as an expense account, an annuity, a retention incentive and the ability to cash out unused vacation time.
But the expense account, retention incentive and a longevity bonus are not in Sebring's contract.
Sebring's contract also contains none of the language from Mackiel's that delineated the balance of power between the superintendent and board on personnel and administrative matters.
Gone is language that gave Mackiel “complete freedom to organize, reorganize and arrange” the district's administrative and supervisory staff.
Also absent is a job responsibilities clause from Mackiel's contract stipulating that “members of the board shall exercise only those responsibilities specified in the policies and regulations of the district.”
Questions have been raised about whether Mackiel has had too much authority and whether the school board was providing meaningful oversight.
Board member Justin Wayne said Wednesday that keeping the language out of Sebring's contract was significant, even if it remains in board policies.
“For me, it's a start of change,” Wayne said.
He said he would prefer changing the board policies as well.
Gray said the board is “in charge,” setting policy and goals, while the superintendent handles day-to-day affairs. That relationship is the “same as it's been,” she said.
The board is scheduled to meet Monday to discuss district policies on governance. The meeting is one of a series of workshops the board has been holding to review policies.
Gray said the board wanted a straight-forward contract. Sebring's contract has eight pages; Mackiel's has 15 pages.
“We wanted to make sure it was direct and that people could understand it easily, which I believe we have accomplished,” Gray said.
Sebring's financial package keeps her compensation above that of other metro area school leaders.
Gray said it was appropriate for Sebring to make more money than Millard Superintendent Keith Lutz, who runs a district with fewer than half the students in OPS.
Lutz's base pay, performance bonus and annuity will total more than $300,500 for the 2012-13 school year, according to his contract.
Sebring will get a raise in the move.
Her base salary in Des Moines is $206,178. Her gross pay in Des Moines is $240,000, according to her application for the OPS job.
The Des Moines district has 31,275 students; OPS has 47,940.
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