DRACUT -- Two months after the School Committee gave Superintendent of Schools Steven Stone an "A-plus" in their formal evaluation of his first year on the job, the board has rewarded Stone with a three-year contract extension and "modest" 1.5 percent pay raise.
In the School Committee's first meeting of the year, the board voted unanimously, 5-0, to extend Stone's original three-year contract, taking it through July 2018. The new deal included a 1.5 percent increase of Stone's starting annual salary of $145,000, upping his pay through July of this year to $147,275, Chairman Michael McNamara said.
"Congratulations on a successful first contract, and best wishes for the second," said McNamara, addressing Stone directly during Monday's televised meeting at Harmony Hall. "It's a win, certainly, for the town of Dracut and the Dracut public schools. You're doing wonderful things."
Stone thanked McNamara and members Betsy Murphy, Dan O'Connell, Matt Sheehan and Joe Wilkie for proactively soliciting his services for another three years.
"I very much appreciate the School Committee's expressing their trust and satisfaction with the work done to date," said Stone after the meeting. "Clearly, as I said when I was interviewing (in 2012), my intent when I go someplace to work is -- I'm there. It is a district with its challenges, but it's great working with the people in the district on a day-to-day basis. Clearly, I am committed to the district, and happy to extend out to another three years in addition to my original contract."
McNamara said if Stone successfully completes both three-year contracts in succession, he will have served six of the 10 years he targeted as his minimum longevity goal during his job interview.
The 1.5 percent increase will be immediately applied to Stone's salary, which will be subject to further possible increases upon the time of his annual yearly reviews by the board, McNamara said. "He is receiving a very modest increase. It's less than what the teachers received, but consistent with the administrators," McNamara said.
Stone also presented the board with Dracut High School student athletes deserving of special recognition, including sophomore wrestler Jon Ryan, several members of the school's champion shot-put team, and the Lowell Sun's Female Athlete of the Year, senior Karina Shepard, among others.
Shepard, bound for Stanford University, is among at least 140 Dracut High seniors who are heading to prestigious four-year universities and colleges in September, Stone reported to the board. To illustrate that Dracut's Class of 2014 "graduates are going places," Stone placed a large poster board on the stage listing the 140 colleges alphabetically, from American International College to Worcester Polytechnic Institute.
Stone also played a short video for the board, which was jointly produced by Dracut Access Television and the district and starring Principal Richard Manley and several Dracut High students, that displayed the high school in a positive light as a well-rounded and desirable academic destination.
McNamara described the video as "well-produced," and likened it to a glowing "infomercial for the town." Stone said the video, which will be aired on DATV, is intended to counter any false impressions residents may have of the school.
"We are very much taking on a mode of really projecting the district; we need to," said Stone about the video. "There are perceptions of the way our district is operating, and the quality of the education. Clearly, if you look at that (poster board) listing over 140 colleges and universities our students have been accepted into, it shows we can do the job. And the community needs to know that. They've invested in the high school; they've invested in the Lakeview (Junior High) and it's important for us.
The idea of "marketing" what a school has to offer has worked for the area's charter schools, Stone noted. "It works in the charter schools. Public relations and marketing are part of their life. We need to have a little bit going back in that direction. We can compete with anybody."
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