Stark State Board of Trustees on Wednesday awarded President Para Jones a new four-year contract that is retroactive to July 1.

The leader of Stark County’s largest university has committed to Stark State College for another four years.

Stark State Board of Trustees on Wednesday awarded President Para Jones a new four-year contract retroactive to July 1.

“The Board of Trustees considers it essential and in the best interest of Stark State College and its students to retain Dr. Para Jones to advance the College’s mission and strategic initiatives, this year and in the years ahead,” Kari Groh, chair of the Stark State College Board of Trustees, wrote in an emailed statement.

"To ensure the college’s continued momentum, we have offered Dr. Jones a new competitive four-year contract in an effort to recognize her outstanding performance and ongoing positive impact on student success and advancement of our communities.”

Jones, who returned to Stark State as president in 2012 after working at the college for 22 years in other roles, wrote in an emailed statement that she looks forward to the continued work of the college.

“I am both honored and grateful to work with our faculty, staff and board of trustees, who share my passion for serving the educational needs of our students, and the talent needs of our employers and the communities we serve,” she wrote.

The contract, obtained by The Canton Repository through a public records request, keeps Jones’ base salary at $239,873 per year and retains the benefits from her previous contract, such as the exclusive use of a college-owned automobile for personal and professional uses, a paid membership to the Glenmoor Country Club for college-related entertaining, a college-provided cellphone, home computer and home printer. The provisions are not uncommon for college presidents.

New in this contract for Jones is a retention incentive where the board has agreed to contribute $65,000 a year to a tax-sheltered annuity for retirement purposes for the next four years.

Groh said the incentive is a practice used widely to retain community leaders across the state and the nation. The board, she said, is aware of the competitive environment for high-performing leaders.

Angela Adkins, president of the advocacy chapter of the American Association of University Professors at Stark State, said many faculty members are disappointed by the annual retention incentive, which she equated to two full-time faculty positions.

She had hoped the trustees would have considered the cuts in pay that faculty members have experienced due to higher health insurance and retirement contributions that exceed any one-time bonuses they have received in recent years.

“In an environment where all faculty and staff have been asked to do more with less … it’s discouraging when that sacrifice also doesn’t get shared with our president,” Adkins said.

Tom O'Brien, president of the Stark State College Faculty Association, wrote in an email that since the faculty association is not in session during the summer months, he could not speak for its members without first consulting them but he extended his personal congratulations to Jones on her contract extension.

"I believe the Board of Trustees has acted in good faith in recognizing her tireless devotion and leadership on behalf of the college, and I look forward to continuing a productive working relationship between faculty and administration under Dr. Jones’ leadership," he wrote.

According to the most recent salary survey by the American Association of Community College, the 2015 median salary for community college leaders who oversee multiple campuses was $195,302. The presidents whose colleges were a state system earned a median of $274,498, the national survey shows.

Stark State, which offers more than 230 associate degrees and certificates, is the fourth largest public two-year college in Ohio and the largest college or university in Stark County.

Within the past year, Jones has overseen the launch of a new campus in Akron, unveiled a $2 million one-stop student services shop called the Gateway Center as well as a new mobile welding training center, launched a Learn to Earn certificate program for high schoolers that’s being considered a model for the state, and will soon welcome the offices of the Stark Development Board and the Stark County Educational Service Center to campus.

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