PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The R.I. Dept. of Education is refusing to disclose the number of vacation and personal days available to Commissioner Deborah Gist, even though she intends to use those days to work in a job 1,500 miles away.
The school board in Tulsa, Okla. voted this week to hire Gist as a $775-a-day consultant until she officially becomes that city’s school superintendent July 1, but she will also continue to hold her $197,000-a-year job in Rhode Island.
Kimberly Bright, Gist’s chief of staff, told WPRI.com Wednesday the commissioner “will use vacation or personal days for any time that she spends consulting in Tulsa during the interim before the selection of a new commissioner in Rhode Island.” Gist’s contract in the state expires June 30.
When asked how many vacation and personal days Gist has accrued, Bright said “I cannot disclose this information.” The Dept. of Education denied a public records request seeking the data.
“Governor Raimondo and the Rhode Island Board of Education are working now on the process of selecting a new commissioner, and it is possible that the transition will take place before Commissioner Gist begins her work in Tulsa,” Bright said in a statement.
Gist’s contract with Rhode Island allows 22 days of annual leave and four personal days, according to Elliot Krieger, a spokesman for the department. The maximum carryover from one year to the next cannot exceed two years’ accrual, Krieger said.
Gist has been Rhode Island’s education commissioner since 2009; she signed a two-year contract extension in 2013 and is currently negotiating a contract to become head of schools in Tulsa, the city she grew up in. She will replace Dr. Keith Ballard, who is retiring June 30.
Gist’s agreement in Rhode Island allows her to “undertake additional education and professional endeavors that contribute to her professional development, provided that such activities do not conflict with or interfere with the performance of her duties and responsibilities hereunder.”
The contract specifically cites “giving speeches, conducting workshops and/or serving on boards and commissions” as examples of work she can be paid for as long she takes vacation or personal time. The contract does not include any language about consulting work.
Gist’s consulting work in Tulsa may include “visits to other school districts and may involve meetings with other school officials,” according to a contract obtained by WPRI.com. Gist will earn $775 for each full day she works in Tulsa and the city will reimburse her for travel expenses.
“This is an appropriate and necessary agreement and it follows the protocols and structures of agreements with prior superintendents,” Tulsa School Board President Dr. Lana Turner-Addison said in a prepared statement. “We feel it’s critical to allow a several-month transition to ensure Dr. Ballard and Dr. Gist are in constant communication and the needs of the district are not negatively impacted by the transition in leadership.”Dan McGowan ( firstname.lastname@example.org ) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for WPRI.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @danmcgowan