Washoe County School District is now one step closer to signing Superintendent Traci Davis to a contract extension.

The Washoe County Board of Trustees voted on Tuesday to move forward with contract negotiations with Davis in the coming months.

There's no set date for when a contract proposal will be presented to the Board of Trustees, but the hope is that it will be at their next meeting two weeks from now, February 27th.

Leading up to the meeting, the Washoe County School Board hired outside legal help to discuss renegotiating a contract with Davis.

"Contracts have become much more complicated than they used to be," Board President Katy Simon Holland said.

Davis' contract expires at the end of June, and the school board has until April 1 to decide whether to hire her for another term. They say that process isn't as simple as a contract negotiation in a private business, though, because of Nevada's open meeting law.

Simon Holland explained that the trustees aren't allowed to talk to each other privately about issues like salary, vacation time, and other perks in Davis' contract. And she said hashing all that out in public puts the board at a disadvantage in negotiations.

"It disadvantages the board," Simon Holland said, "because then the superintendent has all of the insight about where the thresholds are."

The solution they came up with and voted on last fall was to retain outside counsel who can meet privately with each board member and then draft proposals which would be discussed and voted on in the public meeting. They've retained Reno attorney Josh Hicks at what they said is a discounted rate of $375 an hour. Simon Holland said that will come out of the district's budget for legal fees, and that they believe this is the fairest option.

"Our general counsel looked at all of the options and said there's really not another way to do this," Simon Holland said. "If we didn't hire an attorney, we'd have to hire some other kind of negotiator to do it."

Simon Holland said they can't use their in-house attorney because that office reports directly to the superintendent.

As for the contract itself, she said all options are on the table: Davis' salary could go up, down, or stay the same, or they could agree not to renew her contract at all.

"The salary will certainly be looked at in comparison to what other superintendents make in comparable districts," Simon Holland said, noting that Washoe County School District is one of the largest in the country. She likens the process of hiring a superintendent to that of hiring a CEO.

"You have to provide things that are different perks in a compensation package than you used to, in order to become comparable and competitive," Simon Holland said.

After Hicks meets with each trustee, he's tasked with drawing up the proposals for discussion. Simon Holland is hoping those will be ready for the board meeting on February 27.