The Pine Bluff School Board voted to grant two years retroactive pay to Pine Bluff High School Principal Michael Nellums and to add a stipend to his current contract, making his salary nearly $100,000.

The Pine Bluff School Board voted to grant two years retroactive pay to Pine Bluff High School Principal Michael Nellums and to add a stipend to his current contract, making his salary nearly $100,000.


Action on the salary matter was taken at a special called board meeting Thursday night. Nellums had complained recently that he was underpaid.


Board member Henry Dabner made a motion to have the district pay $19,780 to Nellums for 2012-2013 and 2013-2014, and to add an $8,000 stipend to his 2014-2015 contract.


Board members Phyllis Wilkins, Harold Jackson, Herman Horace and Dabner voted for this motion. Board members Leon Jones and Andrea Roaf-Little voted against it. Board member Ken Dickson was absent.


Per the motion, the $19,780 was to be paid to Nellums by Friday afternoon.


Nellums will be paid $99,249.08 for the period of July 1, 2014, to June 30, 2015, including the $8,000 stipend, according to records made available by district staff on Friday. Nellums did not return a phone call for comment Friday afternoon.


At a Sept. 23 regular meeting, Pine Bluff Superintendent Linda Watson cautioned the school board about adjusting Nellums’ salary because it could trigger an audit finding from the Legislative Audit Committee and land the district in fiscal distress.


Most district employees who have questions on their salaries have their questions resolved with administrators, Watson said. She cautioned that the school district was previously cited by the Arkansas Legislative Audit Committee with an audit report related to an unnamed assistant principal who was reportedly not paid in accordance with a salary schedule.


The school district rectified this salary discrepancy by freezing the assistant principal’s salary and having the person work additional days, Watson said. This explanation was presented to the Legislative Audit Committee, she said. However, she cautioned that a second audit finding from the Legislative Audit Committee may bring a negative outcome.


Watson reiterated her concerns on Thursday, saying amending Nellums’ contract could cause a second audit finding.


"The previous board voted on the district’s salary range for all employees," Watson said. " … Please do not think the issue is $20,000 to $30,000."


Dabner said that Nellums is being paid according to his contract.


Roaf-Little referenced the previous board vote on Sept. 23 to consult a lawyer before making a decision on Nellums’ contract.


"Mr. Nellums signed a contract of $90,000," Roaf-Little said. "I do not know what was stated to him elsewhere — if anything. But the contract signed was for $90,000. If anything was promised to Mr. Nellums, it was off the record."


Jackson said he spoke with the district’s lawyer Luther Sutter, who "indicated he would let the board make the decision," Jackson said.


Watson has said that principals’ salaries are determined by the certified salary scale multiplied by the number of days worked per year. Principals are also paid a stipend for the numbers of years worked as an administrator and a stipend for level of education. Nellums holds a doctorate degree in education, Watson said.


Jones said he opposed granting Nellums the retroactive pay and stipend measure because it was akin to granting him a raise of 10.5 percent. Conversely, teachers received a 1.5 percent raise in 2013-2014, he said.


"I would like to have the patrons of the district hear this," Jones said. "Dr. Nellums is getting 10 times everybody else. I cannot see how this will help the children."


Horace said he does not see how adjusting Nellums’ contract would put the district in fiscal distress.