It only took the Olathe Board of Education about 20 minutes to approve the hiring of a new superintendent for substantially more money than it paid the previous top administrator.
On a unanimous vote, the board hired John Allison, the current superintendent in Wichita, with a base salary of $250,000.
Marlin Berry, who resigned in April, was making $231,263.
“We knew we wanted to bring on the best candidate available, and we knew we had to be competitive with that, so that’s why we came up with the salary structure and the contract structure we did for John Allison,” says board President Rick Schier.
A wealth of experience comes with that big salary. Allison was superintendent in Wichita, the state's largest district, for nine years. He also oversaw a very diverse district; 33 percent of students in Wichita are white, while 34 percent are Hispanic and 19 percent African American. Wichita schools also have a growing immigrant population.
Olathe schools are 69 percent white. However, the number of Hispanic and multi-racial students has been growing in recent years as have the number of students who qualify for free or reduced lunches.
“When you think about diversity students are students and you’ve got to meet the needs of those students. I think that was something that was very important to the Olathe school board and is something Olathe has done well for a long time,” says Allison.
Schier agreed. “Absolutely, that was one of the qualities we were looking for, somebody who had some of that experience in the past.”
In addition, Olathe gets a superintendent who has been through the messy school funding battles in Kansas.
Allison admits he's taking over a district that doesn't need a lot of sprucing up. “They’re not looking for somebody to come in and upset the apple cart and change a great deal here.”
Allison's contract also calls for a bonus of up to five percent of his base $250,000, a tax-sheltered annuity of $12,500 and a $1,000 a month car allowance. He starts on July 1.
He broke the news to the Wichita board just a few weeks after they extended his contract and gave him a $3,441 bonus on top of his salary of $229,408.
“Leaving Wichita is bitter-sweet. Fantastic staff, community, supportive board but this was the right time and decision for my family at this point,” Allison says.
Sam Zeff is an education reporter at KCUR 89.3.