The Douglas County school board officially approved Erin Kane, an engineer and executive director of a local charter school, as the district's interim superintendent with a $240,000-a-year salary.
By a 4-3 vote, the board approved a one-year contract for Kane at its Aug. 16 meeting. Pending Kane's formal acceptance, the contract would begin Sept. 1 and end Aug. 31, 2017. A provision allows the contract to be extended on a month-to-month basis if board members and Kane agree.
As part of her compensation package, Kane, who is executive director at the American Academy K-8 charter school, will also receive 35 days of paid time off annually, health and retirement benefits.
Former Superintendent Elizabeth Fagen, who left in July to lead a school district in Texas, had a salary of $273,715.
"I believe this represents a quality agreement that will send a market signal to our future superintendent," Douglas County Board of Education President Meghann Silverthorn said. "We want to attract good future superintendent candidates. That being said, I think many items in here show what we are willing to offer a chief executive in our district."
The contract was met with resistance from board members David Ray, Anne-Marie Lemieux and Wendy Vogel, who raised concerns about the salary, which they believe is too high compared to other comparable districts in the state, as well as the amount of paid time off and various aspects of contract language.
Kane's salary is more than that of superintendents in two nearby suburban districts: Littleton's superintendent earns $220,000 and Jefferson County's $194,000. But it is less than the leader of the Cherry Creek district, who makes $247,000, according to figures from the Colorado Department of Education.
Ray also expressed concerns about Kane's lack of experience in the classroom, which echoed sentiments of some parent groups in previous weeks.
"I'm really concerned about what message we are sending to the profession when we send a message that states you don't need a degree in education. You don't need to have classroom experience. You don't need a license to be an administrator," Ray said. "To me, it's a real compromise to what I consider professionalism in terms of what it means to be a professional educator."
Kane was selected as the lone finalist from two candidates and approved by a 4-3 vote of the Douglas County school board at a special meeting Aug. 2. The other candidate was James Calhoun, the recently retired principal of Castle View High School in Castle Rock.
"Erin is an experienced professional with the skill set that is right for this transition period in our district," Silverthorn said. "She is a proven leader who will help further our philosophy that individual school communities know what is best for their students, and should be trusted to make those decisions. She is a respected administrator at the American Academy family of schools. I look forward to working with her as she moves our district forward through conversations with our students, teachers, parents, and community members."
A Colorado native with an engineering degree in applied mathematics and computer science from the University of Colorado, helped found American Academy. She has served as executive director since 2013.
American Academy is a charter K-8 school in the district with two locations, one each in Castle Pines and Parker.
The search for a permanent replacement will likely last several months.
The Douglas County School District has 67,000 students and 7,700 employees.