The Marietta school board is expected to consider extending Superintendent Grant Rivera’s contract out to 2022 on Tuesday. State law allows a superintendent’s contract to be extended to three years.
Board Chairman Jason Waters declined to discuss the details of Rivera’s contract, but said the public could “expect some adjustments.”
Rivera became superintendent of the nearly 9,000-student school system at the beginning of 2017. He left his position as Cobb Superintendent Chris Ragsdale’s chief of staff to head the neighboring district, replacing longtime Marietta Superintendent Emily Lembeck, who held the position nearly 12 years.
In September 2018, the board extended Rivera’s contract through June 2021. The extension awarded Rivera a $5,000 raise and $10,000 bonus, bringing his annual base salary to $190,136. With retirement pay, benefits and other perks written into his contract, his total annual compensation amounts to more than $226,000, the MDJ reported at the time.
Waters said he is happy with Rivera’s performance through his first nearly three years in the role.
“It’s really a time where you can really see (we’re) headed in the right direction,” Waters said. “I think we’ve seen success in the district.”
Waters listed the approval of a K-11 math curriculum, the placement of strong principals in each school, zero turnover in principals last year and the success of the Emily Lembeck Early Learning Center as some of his accomplishments.
The pre-K facility, bearing the name of Rivera’s predecessor, opened its doors to 118 4-year-olds in August 2018.
When asked how the superintendent could improve, Waters said he’d like to see Rivera build on his improvement in building partnerships with community organizations and leaders.
“He’s really good at external relationships, so I’d say keep that going and keep the low turnover of school leaders,” he said.
Waters would not provide whether he thought the superintendent deserved a raise or bonus with the newest contract amendment. But, he said, the district’s 0.5% decrease in graduation rates for 2019 and 16-point drop in average SAT scores are not likely to affect that decision.
The SAT scores’ drop was a result of a 17% increase in SAT participation, and the district expected it, Waters said. The district was focused on boosting participation, he said.
He also said graduation rates are affected by the district’s transiency rates — when students attend school in the district but leave without their graduation being able to be counted.
“We graduated more kids than ever last year, so percentage-wise it’s down, yes, but the transiency factor is there. But we want to do better, absolutely,” Waters said. “Three years from now, we might be having a different conversation. If things are going the wrong direction, and that’s a systemic problem, then yeah, that would be a different conversation. But I don’t see that being a problem we have right now.”
Rivera said he is proud of the district’s student achievement gains during his time as superintendent. He said Marietta’s achievement gap — the difference in performance between white and minority students — has begun to close, even as more students requiring additional assistance have enrolled.
“That speaks to the work that’s happening in our schools and classrooms every day,” he said.
Rivera said though the average SAT score decreased this year, he’s proud of the increase in test-takers. The next step, he said, is to ensure scores increase over time. To help improve graduation rates, Rivera said he plans to explore how to address the root cause of students dropping out.
“We’re looking comprehensively at every single corner of this community where we are losing students,” Rivera said, specifically mentioning the possibility of daycare for students who have given birth and more flexible schedules for students who have to work to contribute to their household income.
If it’s up to him, Rivera said, his plan is stay with the district, at least long enough to hand his daughter her diploma when she graduates from Marietta High School.
“This is home — for me as a superintendent, and for me as a father,” he said. “I am just as committed today as I was a year ago when I said that I wasn’t interested in any other superintendency, no matter how many phone calls I got.”
Rivera was referring to his 6-year-old daughter, Lauren. He also has a 4-year-old daughter, Reese.
The superintendent’s salary, as well as the salaries of teachers and other faculty and staff are assessed every year based on the market, according to Waters.
The MDJ reported in February that Chris Ragsdale, superintendent of Cobb County schools, received a contract extension until 2022 with a pay raise of about 7%, bringing his annual salary from $327,258 to $350,000.
The website Open Georgia reports that in fiscal 2018:
♦ Gwinnett Superintendent Alvin Wilbanks received $569,375.11, up more than $12,100 or nearly 2.2 % from his 2017 salary of $557,243.86;
♦ Atlanta Superintendent Meria Carstarphen received $461,918.35, up more than $7,900 or about 1.7 % from her 2017 salary of $453,990.28. The Atlanta Board of Education chose not to renew Carstarphen’s contract in September, and it will expire on June 30;
♦ Clayton Superintendent Morcease J. Beasley received $387,344.70, up nearly $42,000 or more than 12 % from his predecessor Luvenia Jackson’s 2017 salary of $345,395;
♦ Former Fulton County Superintendent Jeffrey Rose received $371,590.65, more than $4,400 or about 1.2 % higher than his 2017 salary of $367,153.39; and
♦ DeKalb Superintendent Robert Green received $334,200, unchanged from his 2017 salary.
In other business, the board is expected to consider approving:
♦ A $226,671.09 contract with Russell Ventures to provide furniture for the new classroom and meeting spaces in the College and Career Academy;
♦ A $179,821.30 purchase of lab computers for the College and Career Academy ($93,805.30 of which is reimbursable from the Georgia Department of Education);
♦ A $18,460 contract with E. Dennis A/C, Inc., the low-bidder, to replace the HVAC unit in the West Side Elementary School media center;
♦ The use of $40,000 from a Lockheed Martin grant for the Lockheed Elementary School STEM Innovation Lab (iLab) project;
♦ A $23,582 renewal of Safari Montage software for use at all Marietta City School District schools;
♦ A $119,804 contract with PlaySouth Playground Creators, LLC, to provide playground design-build services at Dunleith Elementary; and
♦ A list of materials as surplus and release them for sale, recycling or disposal.
The Marietta school board meets Tuesday at 6 p.m. in the board room at 250 Howard St., Marietta.