In April 2012, Hinojosa sent a memo to his chief financial officer, noting changes he had made to the contracts of his top staff, although board members said they don’t remember being involved in that change.
Hinojosa said he worked with the board’s attorney, Clem Doyle, two years ago to change the contracts so members of the superintendent’s cabinet would know by Jan. 31 each year if the superintendent wanted to renew their contracts for another year.
“The board agrees to notify the (title) of its intention to extend or renew this contract no later than three months prior to the end of his/her term,” Hinojosa’s memo reads.
Contracts for district employees run through June 30.
The board can vote to renew the cabinet members’ contracts at any time before June 30, but the memo said the board would “aspire” to renew the contracts by March 30.
Doyle did not respond to emails or phone calls for this article.
Board split on fairness issue
At a Jan. 15 work session, board members were undecided on whether or not it was fair to renew the contracts of senior staff months before teachers would know about their own jobs. The board decided against acting on Hinojosa’s request to renew all 14 members of his executive cabinet at that meeting in a closed meeting.
Board Chairwoman Kathleen Angelucci, who was elected in 2010, said she did not recall ever discussing Hinojosa’s plan to ask the board to hire his cabinet well before the district’s teachers.
Angelucci said she learned of the change just last month.
“I do not recall the board voting on or being made aware of a change to the contract verbiage,” she said.
Angelucci said she did not intend to discuss the cabinet’s contracts before the board was ready to do so. She did not feel the board was in the position to approve the contracts at its January meeting and couldn’t predict when the board would be.
Board member David Banks, who has been on the board since January 2009, said he “slightly” remembers discussing the changes to the contracts in 2012, but does not remember voting to approve them. Banks thinks having contracts for executive staff members is unnecessary to begin with, and didn’t believe it was unfair for top staff to have more job security than teachers.
“I take the position that the executive cabinet isn’t going to change unless the board authorizes it,” Banks said. “Doing a contract just gives a little more security to the executive staff that there is no plan for changes. That way we don’t take the risk of losing so many executive people.”
Not all board members believe it is a fair practice to allow cabinet members to know that their jobs are safe months before the district’s teachers know about their jobs.
“I think they ought to be all the same. They are all our employees,” said board member Brad Wheeler.
Wheeler, who joined the board in January 2013, remembers how the board approved the contracts of senior staff months before teacher contracts last year, and questioned the fairness in the procedure.
“We hadn’t even made the budget yet, and these guys were already locked in,” Wheeler said.
Hinojosa: Cabinet needs more job security than teachers
Hinojosa understands why some board members think the changes were unfair, but thinks his “immediate team” needs to have the extra job security.
“It’s a different threshold,” Hinojosa said.
Cobb is different from other school districts in which he has worked that gave top staff members more protection.
“Everywhere else I have been, most of my direct support had multiple-year contracts, we always let them know in January if they were coming back next year. In January, you need them to be focusing on the budget, graduation, as a CEO I need my people to have some stability,” he said.
Hinojosa understands why teachers might be upset, but said teachers are more secure than his cabinet members with the Fair Dismissal Act in place.
“It was my idea to have some security and clarity with my team,” he said.
For the last two years, the board has been notified of his intentions in January. It shouldn’t have been a surprise this year, he said.
Hinojosa told the board he had made changes to the way he wanted his cabinet to be rehired each year back in spring 2012, he said.
Angelucci doesn’t remember the board authorizing any changes.
Hinojosa remembers the board telling him they wanted to maintain the final say as to when the executive staff would be rehired.
The board has until June 30 to renew the contracts of executive cabinet members, but Banks said they will most likely make the decision earlier than June.