$15,000 a month salary for interim superintendent doesn't add up for some taxpayers

Some taxpayers say Florence School District One interim superintendent Dr. Cleo Richardson's month-to-month contract at $15,000 a month is way too much money.

If he stays one year, the district will pay Richardson $180,000.

District 1 board members voted on the month-to-month contract until they find someone to permanently take the position.

The district's last superintendent, Dr. Allie Brooks, who retired in June was paid $125,000 a year.

Richardson's salary doesn't include travel and benefits.

Still, some residents say it's too much.

"I think it should be no more than what the prior one was paid," said Avis Wainwright.

"I was surprised to hear that they were paying this interim person as much as they were. You know it was a bit of a shock to me to be honest, and I was wondering what they were thinking when they made that decision," said Lewis Foster.

Some residents believe the district is wasting tax dollars with Richardson's salary, because they're still paying to search for a superintendent.

The district spent close to $17,000 last year in its first search for a superintendent.

Board members couldn't agree on whom to hire, so they decided to start that search all over again.

Board members say Richardson's monthly salary may seem excessive, but it's not.

They said it accounts for his proven leadership in education.

Richardson has worked as a classroom teacher, principal, assistant superintendent, head superintendent, as well as a consultant for the SC Department of Education.

Board members added his salary is not a lot when compared to other superintendents in the area.

NewsChannel 15 requested the salaries of nine superintendents in the Pee Dee. The seven we heard from make between $125,000 and $160,000. Some of the superintendents have been employed with their districts for nearly 30 years.

Some neighboring superintendents say Richardson is one-of-a-kind leader, and the district is getting a bargain by paying him $15,000 a month.

Some residents agree, saying when you take into account Richardson's experience and the salaries of neighboring superintendents, he's being paid a fair wage.

"I think it's well worth it. If it's gonna be somebody whose gonna make it better. Even if he's not staying full-time or whatever, it'll be easier for the new man or woman that steps in. It'll be an easier transition. And hopefully, like I said, the school will benefit from it.," said Patty Shutte.

Betsy Olsen said, "I guess if that's the going rate, we need to be able to keep up with the times and with the area. It's a regional decision. I would like for the superintendent, even the interim, to have the qualifications that we need. And if we have to pay for it, then we have to pay for it. I think that's reasonable."

The district hopes to hire a permanent superintendent in the coming months.

Board members have a special advisory group and search team helping in their effort to find a new superintendent.