Although his current contract doesn't end for another two years, Sumner County School Board members voted June 20 to again enter into contract negotiations with Director of Schools Del Phillips.
District 2 Representative Tim Brewer will serve as the board's negotiator during the process. Brewer will meet with Phillips and return to the board who will then vote on a new contract, according to Board Chairman Andy Daniels.
Phillips was hired in April of 2011 following the retirement of long-time Sumner County educator Benny Bills. Before coming to Sumner, Phillips was superintendent for the Columbus Municipal School District in his home state of Mississippi from June 2007-May 2011. He served as associate superintendent of Springfield Public Schools in Springfield, Mo., for two years prior to that.
As director, Phillips oversees roughly 4,000 employees and more than 28,000 students at 45 schools.
School board members have generally renegotiated his contract every few years - last voting in December 2015 to extend it through June 30, 2019.
According to state law, board members can extend a director's contract up to four years at a time. They are prohibited from modifying a school director's employment agreement 45 days from or 30 days after a school board election.
After Tuesday's meeting Daniels said now seemed like a good time to renegotiate; and that it was more about locking Phillips into four more years than it was about revising the agreement.
"I think he's doing a great job and the board thinks he's doing a great job," said Daniels. "We want to obviously make sure we hold on to him."
Daniels said that he is in regular contact with Phillips who has said he has received interest from other school systems.
"There are organizations that would love to have the opportunity to hire him away," said Daniels.
Phillips has consistently received high marks on board evaluations - last receiving a near perfect score in 2016.
"I am honored that the School Board is willing to discuss my contract and hopefully extend my service as Director of Schools," said Phillips in an email. "I am proud of the work that our team has accomplished in the past six years."
According to Phillips' current employment agreement, either party may modify the contract "in any legal manner" and may terminate the agreement and enter into a new one at any time.
The director makes an annual salary of $188,814 with any increase subject to what the Board approves for certified employees of the Sumner County School Board, according to the employment agreement.
Other compensation includes the contribution of $5,000 annually to a retirement account on behalf of Phillips and three vacation days and one sick day per month as well as three personal days per year.
Phillips applied for community college position
Phillips was one of three finalists for the position of president of Itawamba Community College, according to Timothy Senter, the college's executive director of human resources and administration.
Dr. Jay Allen was named the college's seventh president on May 2.
Located in Northeast Mississippi, the college has campuses in Belden, Tupelo and Fulton, Miss.
When asked about the position, Phillips said he was approached by several college representatives and community members who encouraged him to apply.
"I did so because it was an excellent career opportunity with the potential to impact a multi-county region's academic and economic direction," he said. "I am not actively seeking employment elsewhere."
Phillips also said that the fact that he is selling his home doesn't mean he has plans to move from the area.
His four-bedroom, 3,741-square-foot home in Gallatin's Fairvue Plantation went on the market June 17. The home is listed by Sumner County Commissioner Paul Goode, who obtained his real estate license earlier this year. Goode is affiliated with Halo Realty, LLC, a real estate company owned by former Sumner County School Board member Danny Hale. Tax records show Phillips and his wife Amy purchased the home in September 2014.
Phillips says the two plan to purchase another property in Sumner County.