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The Lebanon Community Schools district office.

David Patton, Democrat-Herald File

Superintendent Rob Hess can move outside the Lebanon Community School District, the Lebanon School Board has decided.

Board members voted unanimously on Feb. 8, with Russ McUne on speaker phone, to an updated contract for Hess that removes the district's residency requirement.

In other business at the meeting, board members set a special meeting date of 7 p.m. March 19 to decide how to address crowded conditions at Seven Oak Middle School.

They also agreed to a committee recommendation that the district complete a facilities assessment and a long-range facility plan before deciding whether to pursue addition of a construction excise tax to help pay for capital projects. The committee has been studying the issue since last August and has now wrapped up its work.

Hess' new contract replaces the current one and lasts through June 30, 2020. Besides removing the residency clause, it boosts Hess' pay from $127,500 to $135,000, effective immediately, and includes an annual cost of living adjustment of 1.5 percent each year. 

In addition, it removes 12 days of additional paid leave and clarifies evaluation language, specifying the ability to use an independent third party and/or a so-called "360" evaluation.

New contract language also allows the superintendent to be terminated without cause, including a provision for liquidated damages that limits the district’s liability to a maximum of 12 months of pay.

A mechanism for annual renewal has been added, to be exercised at the board’s discretion.

Hess asked board members in January to change the residency requirement, saying he is interested in purchasing a home just outside district limits. Board members indicated they would be agreeable to such a change, noting no other staff member is required to live in the district and that community engagement can be considered as part of Hess' evaluation.

"I appreciate the board's willingness to work with me on this," Hess said following the vote.

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