The Sumner County Board of Education voted unanimously recently to extend Director of Schools Dr. Del Phillips’ employment contract for another four years.
It is the fourth time in six years that board members have voted to renew the director’s contract.
Phillips had been serving as superintendent for the Columbus Municipal School District in his home state of Mississippi when he was hired to lead the Sumner school district in the spring of 2011. He had also served as the associate superintendent of Springfield Public Schools in Springfield, Mo.
School board members last voted to give Phillips a four-year extension on his contract in July of 2017. At that time, the director’s annual salary was set at $194,521. The new contract that runs from July 1, 2019 until June 30, 2023 sets his annual salary at $197,925.
School board members can extend a director's contract up to four years at a time, according to state law. They are prohibited, however, from modifying a school director's contract 45 days before or 30 days after a school board election. The next Sumner County school Board election will be held in August of 2020.
During the April 16 school board meeting, board member Ted Wise was authorized to serve as negotiator for the board regarding an extension of the director’s contract.
Board members voted to approve the new agreement on May 21.
“You have been able to see the new, revised contract – and I have not heard anything so I am assuming there are no questions about it so I move for approval and in so doing to waive second reading,” Wise told board members. The motion passed unanimously without any discussion.
“I’m humbled and honored that the board voted unanimously to extend my contract for another four years,” Phillips said in an email. “I’m excited to continue working with our great teachers, staff, parents, and campus leaders to improve the educational experience and outcomes for every student.”
As in the previous contract, Phillips' salary includes any pay increases given to all Sumner County Schools certified employees. He will continue to receive three vacation days a month; one sick day a month; three personal days a year and five professional days a year.
Phillips has consistently scored high on annual evaluations in which the 11 school board members rank him on a scale of 1 to 10 in five categories: Board Relationship; Community Relationships; Facilities and Finance; Vision; and Student Achievement.
He earned an overall score of 99.7 percent in his most recent evaluation in September of 2018.
His tenure has not been without controversy, however.
In January, several parents demanded Phillips either resign or be terminated for his proposal to temporarily rezone Station Camp Elementary and Middle School students to Beech area schools for the 2019-2020 school year. Students will again be moved to the new Liberty Creek campus set to open in the fall of 2021.
School board members approved the proposal and continue to unanimously support Phillips.
“One of the votes I am most proud of casting as a school board member is the one that brought Dr. Phillips to our county in the first place,” said Brewer. “I think he has done a wonderful job and has our school district in a really good place both educationally and financially. I am really pleased that we were able to extend his contract and I hope he continues to lead our system for many years to come.”
When asked what accomplishments he is most proud of during his tenure, Phillips pointed to a steady increase in graduation rates from 89 to above 95 percent; more access to Advanced Placement courses; the fact that the school district has doubled the number of students taking dual enrollment courses for college credit; and the development of enhanced option high school programs like Middle Colleges at Vol State Community College and Tennessee College of Applied Technology.
Phillips also noted six Sumner schools are among the first 26 in the state to be state certified as STEM programs; Sumner schools have been named Reward Schools by the Tennessee Department of Education more than 60 times and two schools have received the national Blue Ribbon School designation.
“As a district, we have allocated more funds directly to schools for classroom instruction and technology investments; reduced the use of portables as classrooms and added more than 90 classrooms to our campuses for growth in student enrollment,” the director added. “We will also be opening a new school campus in the coming years that will create a new school community within our growing district.”