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Education

Olathe Superintendent Leaving For District In Arkansas

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Olathe Public Schools
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Update 4/8/16 at 4:45 pm

The Rogers School District confirms that Marlin Berry has signed a three year contract that will pay him $215,754 a year with no stated raises built into the contract. His current salary in Olathe is $231,263. That was set to jump to $250,126 had he stayed until the 2017-2018 school year.

Another superintendent from another big metro school district is leaving for another job.

Marlin Berry, who's held the top job in the Olathe Public Schools since 2010, broke the news to the school board at its regular meeting Thursday night.

Berry will take over the Rogers Public Schools in northwest Arkansas.

While Berry didn't make it official until Thursday night, the news slipped out earlier in the day. The Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette posted a story Wednesday that the school board there voted unanimously to offer Berry the job. By Thursday evening, the Rogers district said on its website that Berry accepted the job.

"We believe Dr. Berry will bring a wealth of experience, knowledge, and leadership qualities that will help us build on the success of the Rogers schools," school board President Kristen Cobbs said in a statement.

Berry told the Democrat-Gazette that he didn't seek out the new job and "wasn't trying to get out of  Olathe."

He issued a statement after the Olathe board meeting praising the district. "It was a very difficult decision to leave a district that has been home to me for so long. It has been, without a doubt, one of the best experiences of my life."

The district says Berry's last day is June 30.

Berry will be taking over a much smaller school district. Olathe has almost 30,000 students and four high schools with a fifth one to be built. Rogers has half as many students and three high schools. Rogers schools are also more diverse. In Olathe, 69 percent of students are white. In Rogers, the figure is 48 percent with 45 percent Hispanic students.

Berry clearly hasn't negotiated a contract in Arkansas yet, but he made $243,000 this year with a potential performance bonus of about $23,000. The person he's replacing in Rogers made $226,000 in their final contract, according to the Democrat-Gazette.

It was a rough year for Olathe schools. Just before the start of the school year Berry laid off about 80 people due to the new block grant school funding system. His resignation came on the same day that Gov. Sam Brownback signed a school finance bill he hopes will satisfy the state Supreme Court which has ruled block grants do not meet constitutional muster when it comes to equitably funding schools in Kansas.

Officials say finances in Olathe for next year are tight but not dire. However, how schools will be funded in the state after this year is certainly in question.

Berry is a Kansas man. He was superintendent in Abilene, a principal in Lindsborg and Gardner, and English and journalism teacher in Topeka. He has degrees from the University of Kansas and Emporia State University.

Update: The Democrat-Gazette reports the Rogers' School Board approved a contract Thursday evening, paying Berry $215,754 per year though June 2019.

Sam Zeff covers education for KCUR. He's also co-host of KCUR's political podcast Statehouse Blend. Follow him on Twitter @samzeff.

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