Bob Thomas will start as Knox County Schools' new superintendent on Thursday after the Board of Education approved his employment contract during their meeting Wednesday night.
The board revisited a debate over the length of the contract, but ultimately approved a 2-year contract for Thomas with a base salary of $200,000. The contract also includes a $600 per month travel allowance.
The contract begins April 6, 2017, and is effective until May 31, 2019.
Thomas, who has been an assistant superintendent for KCS since 1990, was selected from a pool of 24 candidates to be the district's next superintendent.
Board member Tony Norman cited the length of Thomas's employment with the district as a reason why the board should offer him a contract longer than two years.
"We know Mr. Thomas pretty well," Norman said. "Now, if we had somebody that was new to us coming into this system ... I could see doing two years."
Several board members said they felt the community has expressed a desire for the superintendent to have a shorter contract, especially after the district had to pay a buyout to previous superintendent Jim McIntyre when he stepped down last year.
"My concern about a two-year versus three-year contract is about being fiscally responsible to the community," board member Terry Hill said.
Susan Horn agreed, saying her preference for a two-year contract had nothing to do with Thomas himself, and was not meant to communicate a lack of trust in him.
"We have heard a lot from this community ... that they would prefer a two-year contract," Horn said.
Asked by the board what contract length he preferred, Thomas said he would rather sign for three years, but would be fine with two years if that's what was offered.
"Whatever this board approves, I am ready ... I'm just eager to get started," Thomas said.
A motion to amend the contract to be for three years failed with four votes in favor and five votes against.
Norman said if they board didn't give Thomas a contract longer than two years, then they should raise his base salary, but the board kept the base salary at $200,000.
The board also recognized Interim Superintendent Buzz Thomas for his work leading the district. Buzz Thomas became interim superintendent in June 2016, after McIntyre stepped down.
“Thank you Buzz, thank you for caring about our kids, thank you for your hard work and dedication to our community," said Board President Patti Bounds. “We could have not chosen a better person for this extremely difficult job.”
Also during Wednesday's meeting, the board approved a change to the student dress code. Student's shorts, skirts and dresses can now be a bit shorter, at mid-thigh instead of fingertip length.
The board chose not to include language requiring faculty and staff to be in compliance with the student dress code, but several board members said they should work on a separate faculty dress code.
Board members also voted unanimously to accept a $223,000 donation from Knoxville businessman and gubenatorial candidate Randy Boyd for renovations to the South-Doyle High School library.