Although Mike Daria’s contract as superintendent of Tuscaloosa City Schools will not expire until the middle of 2020, school board members have discussed efforts to keep him at the helm.

Recently, the Tuscaloosa City Board of Education authorized board attorney Dave Ryan to begin negotiating an extension of Daria’s contract, which will be up in June 2020. In an interview with The Tuscaloosa News, Ryan said it was important to have some kind of contract approved well over a year before the deadline.

Ryan said that in many school systems, recruitment for new superintendents can take place far in advance of the upcoming school year.

“You don’t typically don’t let it get down to the last 12 months,” Ryan said.

However, more discussion and research will precede the arrival of Daria’s contract extension before the board. For one, Ryan said he would like to see what other superintendents across Alabama receive in their contracts. Ryan cited 15 different school systems he would like to examine.

In Daria’s current contract, there are several benefits he has, such as being able to carry over 30 unused vacation days from one year to the next, an annual car allowance of $7,200 per year to travel to different schools in the system and the board paying the premiums on medical, dental and vision benefits for him and his family. The contract also maintains that Daria receive a complete medical examination at least once per year.

“It never hurts to see what other people are doing and if they are doing it different or better than you are,” Ryan said.

Another factor is salary, which could either remain the same or increase during negotiations. According to the Alabama State Department of Education, Daria made an annual salary of more than $186,000 during the 2017-18 school year, making him one of the highest paid superintendents in Alabama. This was somewhat lower than his predecessor; in 2013, Paul McKendrick made $198,900 per year.

During the 2017-18 year, Jefferson County Schools Superintendent Craig Pouncey was the highest paid school superintendent in the state with an annual salary of around $260,000 per year. While TCS has around 10,000 students, JCS has around 36,000.

Ryan said there will be discussions with Daria to determine what he would like for his contract.

“When he and I have a good understanding of what it is he wants, I will share with board members ‘Here is what he has asked for,’ ” he said.

In addition, Ryan will also be meeting individually with school board members outside of board meetings to decide what should be part of Daria’s contract, as well as if any additional goals need to be set for him.

“Hopefully, we won’t have any sticking points,” he said.

Daria has been the head of TCS since July 2016. He replaced McKendrick, who took a leave of absence and then subsequently resigned from the school system in May 2016. Daria has been with the school system since 1996, working his way up from a teacher to assistant principal of general administration.

In the time since taking the reins of the school system, Daria has been the main mover behind the school system’s $175 million strategic plan, which was set in motion in 2016 to improve curriculum, building and employee pay. The plan also aims to improve student achievement and increase the system’s profile as a desirable place for teachers.

In the last couple of years, several schools have been extensively remodeled, a new elementary and middle school has been built north of the river, pay raises have been coming to employees every year and new programs have been put in place to target reading and math achievement.

However, like many school systems in Alabama, TCS has room for improvement. In a new report card released by the state last January, TCS had five schools that were given A’s, one that was a B, four C’s, nine D’s and one F, judging criteria such as academic achievement, academic growth and chronic absenteeism in elementary and middle schools.

In response to the report, Daria said more resources would be put to meet the most urgent needs of the school system.

“We will work as a united group of educators to lift this entire system so that our students can be successful in the world that is in their future,” Daria said at the time. “We are a passionate, caring and committed group of educators who work tirelessly to progress each child in our system. With strong community support, we will be successful.”

To board chairman Eric Wilson, the negotiation process should be a smooth one.

“From my communications, everyone is happy with the direction he is taking our students and the school system,” Wilson said. “We feel like we need to lock down a rising star and get him to finish the job he took.”

Ryan hopes to have a contract ready for approval by the board before Christmas.


Reach Drew Taylor at or 205-722-0204.