Dr. Dixie Bowen and her husband look over salary figures during a break in Monday's Hawkins BOE meeting. Jeff Bobo photo.
ROGERSVILLE — Two months ago the Hawkins County Board of Education extended its director search deadline in hopes of enticing new applicants by offering a salary range topping out at $125,000.
When it came time to put its money where its mouth is, however, the BOE missed the mark by $14,300.
The BOE voted unanimously Monday to decline an offer by Bristol City Schools supervisor Dr. Dixie Bowen for an overall salary of $118,000.
The BOE was only willing to offer an overall salary of $103,700, which is $4,000 more than retiring director Charlotte Britton's overall salary.
With Bowen out of the picture, the board will now focus on the second highest vote getter in last week's BOE tally — Rogersville Middle School Principal Jim Ailshie.
On May 19, a committee of board members will interview Ailshie's references.
A special called meeting is set for Thursday, May 22, at 6 p.m. for the committee to report its findings to the board.
The board as a whole will then decide whether to continue into contract negotiations with Ailshie.
Monday's meeting had several purposes. First, the board heard a report from the committee that had visited Bristol City Schools earlier in the day to interview some of Bowen's colleagues, including the director.
Board member Debbie Shedden spoke for the committee, which also consisted of Chris Christian and Kathy Cradic, and there was nothing but praise for Bowen.
The BOE then voted unanimously to move into contract negotiations with Bowen.
In asking for a minimum of $118,000, Bowen said she would be selling her home in Bristol and moving to Hawkins County so that the school system would have "all of me."
She said her current overall salary package at Bristol is $108,000. Hawkins County's top offer would require her to take a $4,300 pay cut.
Board members noted, however, that although Hawkins County's director salary is well below the state and regional average, the county's teacher and principal salaries are even further below average.
Board chairman Randy Collier said Bowen's minimum pay requirement would result in a "snowball effect" with principals and teachers asking to be brought closer to the state salary average as well — something that Hawkins County wouldn't be able to pay for.
Board member Bob Larkins noted that Bowen has no previous experience as a director.
"That's not to say you aren't worth every penny (of $118,000)," Larkins told Bowen.
The BOE recessed twice to allow Bowen and her husband to discuss the BOE's offer.
In the end, however, Bowen said as much as she wants to lead Hawkins County Schools, she couldn't take a pay cut to make that move.
Last week the BOE's seven members were asked to vote for their two favorite director of schools applicants from the six interviewed.
Bowen received five votes followed by Ailshie with four, Assistant Director Steve Starnes with three, and attendance supervisor Greg Sturgill with two.
Ailshie told the Times-News after Monday's meeting he doesn't anticipate salary being an issue for him.
"I feel that with the salary package and benefit package that Mrs. Britton has received, that would be more than fair and equitable if I have that opportunity," Ailshie said. "It's not about the money for me. It's about the challenge and the opportunity to become director in Hawkins County."
Ailshie added, "The folks in Hawkins County have been extremely good to me over the years, and I'm just grateful to have the chance to be involved in this process."