In a rush to provide its new employees health insurance, Bartlett City Schools board members passed an unfinished health benefits package that they had not yet seen before their meeting Monday.
Bartlett City Schools, which will become one of six new municipal districts in Shelby County this fall, is joining with four other municipal districts and the cities of Bartlett and Colierville to offer new health insurance policies to its employees. Teachers keep their old Shelby County Schools health insurance until Sept. 1 but the district staff’s insurance expires July 1, so the board added the policy at the last minute.
“This will not be the normal course of business moving forward,” said Jeff Norris, the board chair. “This is not ideal to execute these things without allowing you to see them.”
The potential new health care agreement is a complicated process that involves the lawyers of each of the seven entities and takes time, according to board members. “But the attorneys are going to lock themselves in a room and have this done by the end of day tomorrow,” said Norris. Little detail was given about the policy at Monday’s meeting.
The five districts and two cities need to form a joint trust with a board of trustees in order to protect themselves legally and financially, according to Bartlett Superintendent David Stephens. “My  [chief financial officer] looked at the agreement and said I don’t want Bartlett to be responsible for transferring funds for other entities,” Stephens said.
While board members haven’t seen the policy yet, they are comfortable with the broad outlines of the health plan and said the yet-to-be-written parts are just legal details. “There is no expertise on the board that is going to change what happens,” Norris said.
The imminence of the start of its first school year came up again when discussing Stephens’ potential bonus earnings as superintendent. One of his performance goals will be for the year to get off to a good start, as measured on Aug. 28. But board members discussed whether that was enough time to judge his performance.
“What we want to be careful about is not to make an evaluation based on popularity or perception,” said Bryan Woodruff, a board member. “Sometimes a couple of bad bumps in the road catch some ugly press which may not be a reflection of actual performance in that area.”
Other board members disagreed about whether to even expect a great beginning.
“I think our people are not looking for everything to go smooth as silk,” said board member Shirley Jackson. “I think what we’re looking to do is when something happens say, ‘Let’s fix that,’ whatever that is.”
The board chose to push back the evaluation of the superintendents’s job four weeks from the start of the year, according to Norris. “That way we’ll be able to see what bumps occur and how they’re fixed and how quickly they’re fixed,” said Norris.
Norris also quoted Stephens as having said, with all his years of experience, that “the board will know [whether or not the school year is going well]. Your cell phones will know.”
The board started off the meeting by singing Stephens happy birthday and later passed the bonus package, which could be worth as much as $20,000.