Robert Callaghan

El Campo ISD welcomed its newest Ricebird after trustees unanimously voted to approve former Iowa superintendent Robert Callaghan’s district chief contract in closed session Thursday morning.

“It feels exceptional,” Callaghan said. “I wanted to thank the board for their confidence and support and for the process they used hiring a new superintendent. I look forward to the direction they will give the district in the future.”

In a unanimous vote, the board approved Callaghan’s starting salary of $175,000 annually. His contract also includes a monthly vehicle allowance of $600 in addition to a $200 monthly communications allowance.

“We’re super excited about it,” Board President James Russell told the Leader-News.

“Members of the Board of Trustees look forward to the leadership of Mr. Callaghan as we move forward,” according to a board press release.

Former ECISD Super-intendent Kelly Waters resigned on May 4, and began as assistant superintendent for Vidor ISD on July 1. Waters’ annual salary with ECISD was $152,239, as of October 2019. Her starting salary in 2015 was $140,000.

“The board was committed to offering a compensation package which was competitive with districts of like size and geographical region,” according to a board press release.

Louise  ISD   Superintendent Garth Oliver’s annual salary is $105,121 while former Wharton ISD superintendent Tina Herrington’s contract was $178,161, according to the Texas Education Agency as of school districts offering similar super rates to Callaghan’s include Bay City ISD at $178,231, Sealy ISD at $164,388 and Royal ISD at $161,000.

Callaghan served most recently as superintendent for Newton Community School District in Iowa and has 11 years of superintendent experience. He is a native Iowan, but lived in Texas for several years as an adult before moving to Newton for family reasons.

“I am a very collaborative leader, so I provided to the board and to ... organizations that are focused on our community to visit with them and come and speak,” Callaghan said. “I want to have a very collaborative process because these children are our future and it’s important that they have every educational opportunity provided to them as we move forward.”

Texas law requires school boards to wait 21 days before hiring a lone finalist as superintendent. Looking to prepare the district for future COVID-19 outbreaks, the ECISD school board engaged Callaghan as a consultant on June 22. The board retroactively approved Callaghan’s consulting contract in a unanimous vote Thursday. Callaghan was paid a daily rate based on the annual salary awarded to him by the board while consulting.

Before unanimously choosing Callaghan as the position finalist on June 10, ECISD trustees reviewed 21 applicants and conducted in-person interviews with five other candidates.

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