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    Board makes offer to superintendent

    The contract proposal falls short of Howard Hinesley's demands, which some believe are not negotiable.

    By KELLY RYAN GILMER
    © St. Petersburg Times,
    published November 21, 2001


    LARGO -- Pinellas School Board members unanimously agreed last week that they want to extend superintendent Howard Hinesley's contract. But on Tuesday, they struggled with the details.

    Max Gessner came to the informal meeting prepared to accept Hinesley's proposal, that the board pay for his $690,000 life insurance policy -- a policy that would cost about $18,000 in premiums per year for eight years. Linda Lerner, saying that the total cost would be much higher because the board pays taxes on Hinesley's benefits, thought increasing Hinesley's salary would be cheaper.

    Nancy Bostock suggested giving Hinesley a set sum each year, about $21,000, that Hinesley could put toward insurance or his salary. Jane Gallucci wasn't comfortable with the amount of money her colleagues were discussing, citing tough economic times that could get worse.

    In the end, board members settled on an offer that few were happy with and some doubted Hinesley would accept because they don't think his demands are negotiable.

    The board is offering Hinesley, Pinellas' superintendent since 1990, an additional $25,000 per year, to put toward either his base salary or life insurance premiums. Under this offer, Hinesley would get money only for as long as he stays with the district, and the amount is a fraction of what Hinesley has requested.

    "I'm trying to be fair and I'm trying to do what's right," Gallucci said. "I also have to look people in the face in the community."

    School Board attorney John Bowen delivered the board's offer to Hinesley after the meeting. As he prepared to drive to Georgia to spend Thanksgiving with his parents and extended family, Hinesley said he would think it over.

    "I will think about what's there and I will talk to my family," said Hinesley, who has applications out to several other school districts he would not name. "The board's been good to me."

    If Hinesley tells board members that their offer is unacceptable, board members will meet again Dec. 3 to come up with something else. The board hopes to vote on a contract Dec. 11.

    Gessner warned that if Hinesley doesn't stay, it could be more expensive to conduct a national search and find someone new. Gallucci said a national search might not be necessary, since deputy superintendent John Stewart, who used to lead Polk County schools, could take over.

    Hinesley earns $159,509 annually. His current contract runs through June 30, 2002.

    He notified board members earlier this month that he wants to stay longer and named seven demands.

    Among them: extending his contract through June 30, 2004, with the ability to extend it longer; permission to do consulting work during his vacation time; raising the amount contributed to a tax-sheltered annuity from $9,500 annually to the maximum the IRS allows, which eventually will be $15,000; and folding a $3,000 bonus he had been donating to charity into his base salary. That would make his base salary $162,509.

    The $690,000 life insurance policy to benefit Hinesley's wife, Susan, is the source of debate. Hinesley is asking the board to pay the entire cost, even if the payments last beyond Hinesley's contract.

    Also Tuesday, the School Board appointed Lee Benjamin as chairman and reappointed Nancy Bostock as vice chairwoman. They will serve for one year.

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