Hicks inks contract, starts work at TCS

Published 10:44 am Tuesday, July 12, 2011

By 8:15 a.m. Monday, Lee Hicks was on the job as superintendent of Troy City Schools.

The Board of Education met at 7:30 a.m. Monday to ratify Hicks’ contract. Minutes after the meeting ended, Hicks and Board President Roxie Kitchens had signed the paperwork and the former Prattville High School principal was ready to get to work. His resignation in Autauga County was accepted at that board’s Monday meeting.

“There’s been a delay and we have to make up ground right now,” said Hicks, who was offered the job as Troy superintendent on June 22. “I’ve got a lot of long hours ahead, meeting with the personnel as well as people in the city of Troy, finding out what their expectations are.”

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Hicks said he is used to the pressure. When he first took over as principal at Prattville High School, some eight years ago, he did so with less than a month until school started. “I was assistant principal before that, so it was a little bit different, but we still had the short deadlines,” he said. “I told my teachers then, and I continue to say, this is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. We have to prioritize now to reach the long-term objectives.”

While short-term issues will be pressing, he said, “we don’t need to lose sight of what our long-term goal is.”

Hicks spent time Sunday afternoon with David Helms, assistant superintendent, reviewing issues facing the schools. At the top of his work list on Monday was the search for a new middle school principal.

“I know one of the highest priorities is getting the most qualified candidate for the middle school position,” Hicks said. “That is the grade level where many parents start looking elsewhere if they don’t feel a school is safe.”

Board members in June approved the hiring of Dr. Boyd English as principal as Charles Henderson High School, but they deferred the hiring of the middle school principal until contract negotiations could be completed with Hicks.

The contrat negotiations took more than two weeks and on July 6, during the process, longtime school board attorney Richard Calhoun resigned. “We’ll have to find someone (to replace Calhoun),” Kitchens said. “I can’t really speak as to why he resigned,” adding that the board members would feel the loss of Calhoun’s 30 years of experience as board attorney.

In the end, Hicks’ three-year contract calls for $115,000 in base pay, with an optional $5,000 one-time bonus when he completes his doctorate and a one-year buyout clause, should the school board decide to terminate the contract prior to the end of the three years. It does not include any wording specific to the ongoing Alabama High School Athletic Association investigation at Prattville High School. Dr. Judson Edwards, vice president of the board, had said at the time Hicks was hired that board members would make accommodations to protect the board should Hicks be found at fault in the investigation. “Absolutely we will,” he said then.

On Monday, Edwards said those concerns were addressed by the one-year buyout clause. “I was going to insist on some coverage in the contract,” Edwards said. “Essentially, with the one-year buyout we can separate for any reason. I felt like that was fair because he’s giving up a tenured position to come here to a contracted position. He’s taking risks.”

Despite the lengthy negotiation process, board members were excited to have the issue resolved on Monday.

“I’m glad that the contract is signed and that we can move forward,” said Wally Lowery, who was the only board member unable to attend Monday’s called meeting.

Al Jones, who had not supported the hiring of Hicks, said now that the new superintendent is on the job, he will have the board’s full support.

“Everything we do up here is for the best intentions of Troy City Schools and our students,” he said. “I just want to let Mr. Hicks know that although he did not get my vote three weeks ago, he has my vote now. We wall need to work together and move forward.”

Others agreed.

“We’ve got roughly a month or so until school starts,” Edwards said. “This is a positive day for the school system, but we’ve got a lot left to do.”

The school board meets again at 5:15 p.m. Thursday, July 21.