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Lancaster School Board Puts Controversial Superintendent Buyout On Hold

picture of computer screen divided into 25 squares, most of which show people's faces. These are people attending the school board meeting via Zoom
Bill Zeeble
Lancaster ISD's board meeting in session Thursday. Trustees considered pulling more than $2 million from their budget to fund the superintendent's buy-out. They delayed the move

The Lancaster school board has stopped — for now — its move to buy out Superintendent Elijah Granger. Trustees voted in a Thursday night virtual meeting to table a motion that would have cost more than $2 million.

The agenda item asked trustees to approve spending the money for Elijah Granger, the district’s last superintendent. Earlier this month, just weeks after extending his contract another five years, board members voted 4 to 3 vote, to buy him out of his contract.

Before Thursday's vote, trustee Ty Jones asked district CFO Shonna Pumphrey how the withdrawn funds would affect Lancaster ISD’s budget.

“It’s going to reduce our projected fund balance to virtually nothing,” said Pumphrey. “As you recall in August, we budgeted fairly conservatively to allow the district some cushion in the midst of the pandemic. This particular amendment would virtually clear out any of the reserves and things we had left for ourselves.”

Pumphrey's answers carried a punch. Trustees voted 4 to 3 to table the motion until next month. The November election defeat of past president Ellen Clark also carried some weight. She had voted to approve the buyout. Thursday night, the man who replaced her voted the other way. Now Granger’s buyout is on hold.

The Texas Education Agency’s superintendent salary reports show some dramatic disparities across North Texas. Granger’s annual base pay is $315,000; Lancaster ISD’s student enrollment is 7,474. He makes $71,000 more than the superintendent in similar-sized Cedar Hill (7,625 students) and $90,000 more than in DeSoto (8,633). His pay is $7,500 higher than Plano’s Sara Bonser’s, even though her district’s student population is seven times bigger.

DistrictSuperintendent Base PayEnrollment
Dallas Michael Hinojosa $351,750153,861
Fort Worth Kent Scribner $342,00082,000
LancasterElijah Granger$315,0007,474
DentonJames Wilson$310,00130,919
PlanoSara Bonser$307,56252,629
Cedar HillGerald Hudson$243,1687,625
DeSotoD’Andre Weaver$225,0008,633

Source: Texas Education Agency’s superintendent salary reports

Bill Zeeble has been a full-time reporter at KERA since 1992, covering everything from medicine to the Mavericks and education to environmental issues.