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Clark receives mostly positive marks after his second year with district

Overall, trustees gave Superintendent Jim Clark high marks during a public evaluation Monday of his second year at the helm of Missoula County Public Schools.

Most of the 10 trustees at the special meeting praised Clark for his community relations, team approach and strong leadership of the district. But three trustees said improvements were needed in several areas. One suggestion called upon Clark to play a greater role in helping board members resolve differences and operate less dysfunctionally.

"I don't feel Dr. Clark is responsible for how we behave with each other, but I believe a superintendent can provide leadership in how well the board operates together," said Trustee Suzette Dussault.

In a 7-3 vote, the board agreed to give Clark a 3.25 percent pay increase which equates to a $3,445 raise and brings his salary up to $109,445 as of July. Of the seven AA districts in Montana, Clark is the third-highest paid superintendent, behind the top administrator in Billings at $120,000 and Helena at $112,600.

A subcommittee that considered Clark's pay increase initially recommended a $2,000, or 1.9 percent raise, noting that the average teacher will receive only about $1,300 more in 2004-05. That equates to a 3.25 percent raise, but the dollar amount is smaller because of the large difference in earnings.

"If you go just by percent increases, the gap will spread quite rapidly between teachers and administrators," said Trustee Drake Lemm.

Subcommittee members said they want the board to get away from across-the-board percentage increases and instead use real dollar amounts, but they realized the board had already granted a 3.25 percent pay increase for the rest of the district's administrators shortly after it settled a contract with the teachers' union last spring.

"I think it would be unfair … wrong not to give (Clark) a comparable increase, but we also recommend something different in the future," Lemm said.

Trustees Dussault, Carol Bellin and Colleen Rogers voted against the 3.25 percent increase. Jim Sadler, Rosemary Harrison, Debbie Dupree, Naomi DeMarinis, Diane Beck, Jenda Hemphill (formerly Jenda Cummings) and Lemm voted in favor of the raise.

Trustees will discuss whether to extend Clark's contract for another year at their February board meeting. His current contract expires in 2006.

Clark's evaluation will conclude with a letter drafted by board Chairwoman Rosemary Harrison that must be approved by the full board.

Harrison said she expects a few of the issues raised by three trustees to appear in the letter as goals for Clark to achieve in the coming year. Among them may be: complete policy revisions across the elementary and secondary districts; provide more detailed information to trustees before meetings; complete a job description for the superintendent; and help trustees learn how to work more effectively with one another.

Hemphill expressed concern that a small minority of trustees has decided divisions on the board are somehow the superintendent's fault, and she disagrees.

"I don't think we should be shoving our personal problems on him," Harrison added.

DeMarinis suggested the issue provides Clark with a unique challenge.

"I think some strong leadership is needed to help the board learn how to work better together," she said.

Reporter Jane Rider can be reached at 523-5298 or at jrider@missoulian.com

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